Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Blogging Attorney

Although I doubt many people read my prior posts, I had to delete them out of caution. A public defender in Rockford, IL lost her job and now faces a formal ARDC complaint over some of the content in her blog.

The story of this attorney came to me from the American Bar Association in my weekly email. One of the benefits of belonging to bar associations and other types of organizations is that they strive to keep their members updated. In fact, the Illinois State Bar Association sends out a daily email with the latest case law as the opinions are published. A brief description of the relevant holding is provided along with a link to the opinion is PDF format. Criminal law is a rapidly changing area of law. Therefore new case law updates via a daily email is well worth my membership fees.

I don't want to sound like I am stumping for the ISBA, but through Fastcase I also get access to about every published case in the country. I already pay Westlaw for Illinois cases and Illinois annotated statutes, but I don't have Federal cases in my plan. Fastcase gives me everything and is included in my ISBA membership. If it wasn't for Westlaw's Key Digest system I probably wouldn't use it. But, legal research is so much more thorough and faster with West's Key system. Thus, I use both.

Back to the point of this post and the lawyer from Rockford: I don't ever criticize other lawyers but I would have never posted similar content. After reading about her case I realized that a few of my posts had a story based on a case I handled buried inside it. Given the size of Cook County, I doubt anyone could have readily identified who my clients were based on what limited facts I wrote about. And, I never criticized or insulted any of my clients.

What I did, was use a few of my cases to illustrate what I see are problems with the criminal justice system I work in, specifically Illinois and Cook County to be more specific. I am not sure if anything I wrote rose to the level of violating Illinois Supreme Court Rule 770 which forbids conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or to bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute. However, I don't want to find out.

Cook County is massive. There are several million people and lots of crime. The county criminal courts system is spread out over 6 districts. The county jail has an average of 12,000 inmates at any given time. And there are about 1000 felony and 3000 misdemeanor arrests every week in Cook County.

While there are some areas within the system that I take issue with, it does function pretty smoothly for how big it is.

I read a lawyer in Florida got into trouble over his blog because he insulted a judge. He was fined by the Florida State Bar but he's challenging the decision. The first amendment should shield him from a formal reprimand, he argues. I salute this attorney and will keep my eye on this story. I, however, don't want to be the Illinois test case. Call me chicken. Call me a conformist. But call me a lawyer with a license and no ARDC problems.

ARDC or not, I would never openly post or say where I could be overheard some of the things these two attorneys did. You just don't do it.

Moving forward, I will limit my posts to comments on new case law, practice management, and other topics I feel are safe.