“By placing discretion in the hands of an official to grant or deny a license, such a statute creates a threat of censorship that by its very existence chills free speech.”
Secretary of State v. Joseph H. Munson Co., 467 U.S. 947, 964 n.12 (1984) per U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun
Over the past six months, I have faced a professional conduct complaint initiated by an “anonymous” lawyer and later at the behest of the Law Society of Upper Canada relating to my personal Twitter account: @apribetic.
I won’t go into detail, but suffice it to say that an “anonymous” lawyer did not take kindly to three of my “retweets” or “RTs” and decided to lodge a complaint against me. The fact that both my Twitter account and The Trial Warrior Blog are personal, as opposed to professional endeavours, did not forestall a lengthy Law Society investigation.
Thankfully, I received a letter today confirming that the “Law Society’s Proceedings Authorization Committee decided that discipline proceedings should not be initiated as a result of this complaint and that this matter should be closed.”
Here is a redacted copy of the LSUC letter dismissing the complaint.
For any lawyer to face a formal complaint from a governing law society or bar association is professionally worrisome and emotionally taxing. The fact that the complaint is subjectively frivolous is irrelevant; until the bar complaint is formally dismissed and the file is officially closed, your professional and personal life remains in turmoil.
You can imagine the amount of time it took for me to respond to numerous letters from the Law Society requesting explanations, clarifications and re-clarifications; all valuable time that I will never get back. The distraction was unnecessary and a disservice to the Law Society’s regulatory mandate.
Admittedly, the Twitter complaint weighed heavily on my mind , as well as my heart. The price of expressing strong opinions and speaking out against social media fraud is having a large bulls-eye painted on my back.
So be it.
I can take it.
Just next time: stand up and be counted. If you disagree with something I say or write, then call me on it. I am prepared to listen and to be persuaded to change my mind. Just don’t hide behind the cloak of anonymity and file an anonymous complaint. That’s what cowards do.
It helps when you have someone in your corner. In my case, I was fortunate to have the collegial support of not one, but two of the top American criminal defense lawyers and blawgers on my side : Brian Tannebaum and Scott Greenfield. In the latter case, it was Scott’s supporting letter, which in my mind, was dispositive of this “Twitter” complaint.
There is much talk about lack of “civility” in the legal profession.
In the end, civility is neither a substitute for free speech nor an excuse to not expose uncomfortable truths. United we stand, divided we fall.
- Twitter, A Cactus Named Erik, and Social Media Policy (trialwarrior.com)
- Judge Defends Free Speech on Twitter in Key Case (newser.com)
- Judge dismisses Twitter stalking case (news.cnet.com)
- Judge Rejects Twitter Cyberstalking Case on Free Speech Grounds (mashable.com)