On the matter of freedom of speech and very thin skin: a twitter tale
The defense lawyer notes the deposition of one of our experts. It is at the end of a work day. So I elect to attend by telephone. This turns out to be a wise decision. Because the court reporter does not show up. Another court reporter has to rush over. This takes 40 minutes.
I pretty much do not complain. Or rub this in the defense lawyer's face since his office arranged everything.
But I do float off to Twitter. Which I do from time to time. When a deposition grows boring. Or irritating. Or in this case, doesn't start when it should.
As a result, see the above twitter feed. Which includes the deposition the next day as well.
The defense lawyer (or perhaps his associate) decides to stalk me through the internet. A few days later lo and behold. He discovers my twitter. And sends this letter:
Original version: Letter to Koehler, 3-22-13 re tweets.pdf
March 22, 2013:
It came to my attention that Ms. Koehler was "tweeting" during the depositions of Dr. Beck and Mr. Owings.
The only reason I am writing this letter is because some of the information provided by counsel was inaccurate and derogatory. For example, counsel notes that "the defense forgot to get a court reporter." That is incorrect. The court reporter did not appear as scheduled.
It appears to me that this conduct is inappropriate and unprofessional. I have no interest in what you do on your computer. However, when the inaccurate commentary is occurring during an official court proceeding, I must respond. This information could be seen by a witness, a potential juror, or court personnel. Respectfully, I ask that it stop. If the conduct continues, I will consider all remedies, including court intervention.
Please call me if you have any questions.
Oh good heavens! Am stricken with fear....(or should be)... He is threatening to take my twittering to court. Pause. For a thoughtful nano second. And respond with this email.
From: Karen Koehler
Sent: Friday, March 22, 2013 11:28 AM
Dear Steve, Paul, Rachel and Vickie:
Thank you for your very thoughtful letter of this morning. I am so sorry, Mr. Lamberson, that you do not share my sense of humor. Particularly regarding some of the banalities of deposition practice.
I believe you are making two charges: first, that I made comments that were “inaccurate and derogatory;” and second that my conduct is “inappropriate and unprofessional.” I respect your need to fully express these opinions in writing and published to your office, my cocounsel and our paralegals.
There is a wonderful construct known as the First Amendment. It ensures that regardless of whether we are on the same wavelength or not, we can speak our minds as we deem fit. Yes, even though we are lawyers. So long as we do not jeopardize our client’s interests or reflect poorly on our profession. Even if I believe you are overreacting, or even just being a bit too negative in your outlook in sending me such a stern letter, I completely support your right to vent and even scold me to your heart’s content. In front of an audience of your own choosing.
Now, let’s turn to the subject of your ire. The twitter feed. To the extent that you represent you did not forget to order the court reporter, they just didn’t show up - I wasn’t privy to that. No explanation was given to me. I just waited and waited and was quite a good sport about it. Starting a deposition at 5:40 p.m. is not something that is fun. I’m sure you recall that Dr. Becker and I were nothing but kind and cordial to you. In fact, I even graciously stepped in to help out and provided you with my conference line. You were very thankful at the time. Let’s compare my actions in helping you fix the problem, to my tweet that the defense forgot to get a court reporter. Fairly benign wouldn’t you say. Regardless, I apologize to the extent that that I assumed you had forgotten to secure the court reporter. Now let’s take this mistake down the path of the threat inherent in your letter. Are you going to actually go to court to complain that my inaccuracy caused you personal harm. Will you say that members of the public now shun or mock you due to your lapse in securing a timely court reporter. How has the case been impacted in any way. There is no trial going on. I don’t ever publicly post about a case when I’m trial. Indeed, whom other than you and the members of your firm who enjoy following my twitter feed, know that in fact the subject of my conversation - was you. There is no identifying information whatsoever.
I suspect that you aren’t as upset with me talking about the court reporter’s failure to show up, as you are about some of the other comments. Like rolling around on my ball as the expert schools the defense lawyer. Note – I sit on a bouncy ball, not a chair in my office. Yet more proof, that I am not your standard issue lawyer. Or the question that tickled me at the time as to whether the plaintiff having a terminal witness could impact his ability to work.
I can be quite serious. But I also find great joy and amusement in the practice of law. I adore everything about it, even the mundane moments. I have a good sense of humor and engage it often. To the extent you do not share my sensibilities and are easily offended by them, I quite respectfully suggest – that you do not read my twitter or blog postings.
If you intend to seek court intervention over my expressions of opinion regarding an anonymous defense lawyer on an anonymous case, then that is your choice.
Thank you again for taking the time to let me know how you feel,
Moral of the story: Stalk an opposing trial lawyer's social media websites at your own risk.