Friday, September 14, 2012

Do not post pictures of your client's underwear on your Facebook page.

You might think that the (non-legal) advice found in the title of this post was obvious to everyone.  You would be wrong. 
The Miami Herald has the story of Anya Cintron Stern.  Until recently Ms. Cintron Stern was a public defender in the Miami-Dade public defender's office

Why did Ms. Cintron Stern's employment end?  Well it turns out that Ms. Cintron Stern posted  a photograph of the leopard-print underwear worn by her client on her Facebook page. Ms. Cintron Stern did this by taking a picture of the underwear while her client was changing out of his jail uniform and into regular clothes during his jury trial. The defendant, by the way, was on trial for murder.

Apparently amused --or possibly angered--by the underwear, Ms. Cintron Stern posted the picture on her Facebook page with a caption suggesting that the client's family thought the underwear was "proper attire for trial."  One of Ms. Cintron Stern's Facebook friends saw the posting and reported it to the judge.  Once he learned of the posting Miami-Dade Judge Leon Firtel declared a mistrial. 

The mistrial caused Miami-Dade Public Defender Carlos Martinez to immediately fire Ms. Cintron Stern because she was not giving her client the loyalty and respect that a lawyer is supposed to show the client.  Mr. Martinez is quoted in the paper as saying, "when a lawyer broadcasts disparaging and humiliating words and pictures, it undermines the basic client relationship and it gives the appearance that he is not receiving a fair trial.” 

This case raises a lot of questions.  First, what is the proper underwear for trial?  Also, isn't the concept of proper court clothing limited to clothing that people might actually see in court?  Was there some reason that the defendant was going to have to show his underwear to the jury?  If so, what kind of trials do they have down in Miami anyway?  How does a thirty-one-year-old lawyer think that this sort of posting is appropriate for a lawyer? 

Some might think that being immediately fired from a job for one Facebook post seems a tad harsh.  However, the Herald article notes that another Facebook post by Ms. Cintron Stern apparently suggested that she believed one of her clients was guilty.  One can see where an employer charged with keeping people out of prison might be unhappy when one of its employees starts questioning the innocence of her client and mocking her client's sartorial choices.

Finally, the Daily Mail claims to have a picture of Ms. Cintron Stern.  You can see it here
.(H/T to the ABA Law Journal)

1 comment:

  1. To answer one of your questions, no underwear is proper for trial.


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