Tweets as Evidence: Authenticating and Admitting Twitter Tweets and Facebook Pokes

The State Bar of Texas has been offering continuing legal education for awhile now on how attorneys can use tweets as evidence.  That's right: the 140 character tweets (or retweets) that millions are publishing on Twitter 24/7, and sharing with more and more followers, will be appearing in the future as evidence for jurors to consider in their deliberations.

Next month, a replay is being offered by the Texas Bar of a Summer 2010 presentation entitled "Authenticating Tweets: Use and Admission of Social Networking Evidence," where attorney John Browning of Dallas shared with his fellow Texas lawyers all about not only authenticating tweets but getting them admitted into evidence under both state and federal law.  (Of course, we all know that authentication and admission are two different hurdles ....)

2012 UPDATE:  See my article in Florida Defender, "Twitter at Trial: Tweets and Messages as Evidence 2011"  which includes discussion of evidentiary rules and issues of admissibility and authentication.

It also looks like Mr. Browning will be covering more than just Twitter - the outline of his speech references Facebook pokes, as well as a general discussion of social media as fodder for discovery and evidence in civil cases.  He should know: John Browning has also written a book on the legal ramifications of social media entitled The Lawyer's Guide to Social Networking: Understanding Social Media's Impact on the Law published by West in December 2010.

Of course, this isn't news to some.  Paris Hilton faced having her tweets used by Las Vegas prosecutors in the drug charges she faced last year.  But then again, Paris Hilton is always trendy right?

For more on authentication and admissibility of social media:

  1. New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer - using tweets, Facebook pix in NJ criminal trials
  2. South Carolina Family Law Blog - using social media in family law cases
  3. U.S. Department of Justice  - Directives on use of socia media in the courtroom


AVVO - Reviews to Consider B4 You Claim Your Profile

AVVO.COM is a lawyer rating site - maybe you've seen it.  However, before you include your name - or that of your law firm - on Avvo, consider the following 5 (+1) issues:

1.  Avvo is on the Ripoff Report

2.  Last year, New York HR attorney Charles Krugel gave an in-depth review of the site - it's worth your time to read.

3.  Read the Wikipedia article (I know, I know) and find, among other things, info regarding a lawsuit filed against the service (which reviews both doctors and lawyers) where the plaintiffs alleged that Avvo.com is a sham since its review system isn't scientfically sound -- and where the case was dismissed not because of the allegation that the ratings are bogus, but on 1st Amendment Free Speech grounds.  The Judge ruled that assuming arguendo that they are bogus, they are constitutionally protected nevertheless.  (Justia has Browne et al v. Avvo here, pleadings and opinion, if you're interested.)  Since then, fyi, there's been another suit filed (in 2010, out of Florida - read the pleading here).

4.  There's a search engine optimization strategy here that lawyers (and doctors) don't recognize is part of the Avvo.com agenda - details explained here by Barry Hurd, and you need to read his comments, too. 

5.  Debra Bruce of Lawyer-Coach, Inc. provides a good summary of the Avvo controversy here, in a pdf available online from the State Bar of Texas. 

Here's my suggestion -- before you jump into Avvo, go read the reviews of lawyers and law firms in your community.  You may find some shocking results ... as Ms. Bruce points out.  Consider the raison d'etre of this site: to build ranking on the web.  Avvo.com is focused upon building its own site authority on the web, and lawyers who sign up benefit from dovetailing with them.  Read Hurd's discussion of this for details.

6. And, one big reminder:  it's important to check with your State Bar to insure that any Avvo listing is okay with them. 

It may not be -- remember, there are testimonials on the site and that's a big no-no in many states (at least for lawyers).   Earlier this month, the Broward County Bar Association discussed this in their latest meeting ("AVVO Testimonials on Florida Attorney Profiles") and the latest from Florida is that lawyers there can "claim" their Avvo profile, but they cannot solicit testimonials for the site - tho Florida allows these testimonials to appear. 

And nope, I don't know the answer to the question "how can the Florida Bar enforce this distinction?"  Your guess is as good as mine on that one.


ISSN: Registering Your Blog with the Library of Congress

What is an ISSN?  Why should you bother?  It's like an ISBN for your blog. 

From the Library of Congress:

An ISBN or International Standard Book Number is the book counterpart to the ISSN. It is a national and international standard identification number for uniquely identifying books, i.e., publications that are not intended to continue indefinitely. A publication can have both an ISSN and an ISBN. This situation occurs most commonly with books in a series and with annuals or biennials. The ISBN identifies the individual book in a series or a specific year for an annual or biennial. The ISSN identifies the ongoing series, or the ongoing annual or biennial serial. ...

The ISSN can be thought of as the social security number of the serials world. Just as an individual's social security number is used in many automated systems to distinguish that person from others with the same or similar names, the ISSN distinguishes a particular serial from others with which it might be confused. The ISSN also helps library patrons, libraries, and others who handle large numbers of serials to find and identify titles in automated systems more quickly and easily. ...
There is no charge for the assignment of the ISSN, or for the use of an ISSN once assigned. (However, the Library of Congress incurs substantial costs to staff and maintain the U.S. ISSN Center. Additionally, the Library of Congress is assessed a considerable fee to belong to the ISSN Network.) ...
There is no connection between Copyright and ISSN. Having an ISSN does not confer any Copyright protection, nor does sending a serial to the Copyright office eliminate your need to send the U.S. ISSN Center a sample issue of a serial for which you were given a prepublication ISSN. ...
Getting an ISSN for a title does not confer any exclusive rights to that title. Nor can titles be copyrighted. The best way to protect a title is to register it with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.
To register your blog online with the Library of Congress, go here.

One more thing:  thanks to Lynn Viehl at Paperback Writer for the head's up.


Look for My Article on Privatization Trends in the Upcoming Issue of the Florida Defender

The Florida Defender is published quarterly by the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

I'm honored to have my article, "The Vital Necessity of the Office of the Florida Public Defender: Resisting the Temptation to Privatize," where I share a byline with Terry Lenamon, published in a periodical noted for its contributors and for its scholarly readership. 

Look for it in the Spring 2011 Issue of The Florida Defender


How to Cite Websites as Primary Sources: Library of Congress Provides Fast Reference to Chicago, MLA

The Library of Congress offers a fast and easy to follow reference resource for proper citation under either Chicago (Chicago Manual of Style, 15th ed., sections 17.270, 17.237) or MLA (MLA Handbook, 6th ed., section 5.9.2).

Jump from the Library's overview page to its nice, short itemization of Chicago or MLA

For example, from here you can find how the Chicago Manual of Style references proper citation to online legal documents and government publications as a primary source in your work (Chicago Manual of Style, 15th ed., sections 17.270, 17.270):

1.Creator’s last name, first name, middle initial (or filmographer’s name if no director is specified, but indicate role).
2.Author’s last name, first name, middle initial (if given).
3.Title of document (subsection is placed in quotes, followed by title in italics).
4.Format (omit if it is a printed page).
5.Publisher city: publishing company, copyright date (include as much information as possible such as page numbers).
6.Source (From Library of Congress in normal font), Collection name with dates (in italics).
7.Medium (software requirement needed to access source).
8.URL (use bibliographic record URL or shorter digital id if available at bottom of bib record).
9.Accessed date (in parenthesis).


Testing Windows Live Writer With This Post

Well, I’m trying out Windows Live Writer here, not sure if I’m going to like this or not.  Another ribbon on the top – geez louise! 

However, the ability to type here and then have the post automatically placed into the blogging platform might help me be more efficient, and perhaps help me to post more often.

Checking links now.  Here’s my simplicity blog

One thing – I cannot choose categories here – no indexing of posts with this remote function.  Wrong: after I published this post and returned to WLW, a window popped up with my Labels Index list.  So, you can choose the Blogger categories with Windows Live Writer. 

Well, that’s enough text.  Let’s see how this looks as a published post. 

My call: I like this.  I may end up liking this a lot.