Lawyers Using Social Networking Sites For Legal Information

At Malbrough & Lirette in Houma, La., a secretary browses MySpace and Facebook Web sites each day.

She’s not checking the online social networking sites for personal reasons, but is performing one of her job duties.

"It’s an everyday occasion," said Joan Malbrough, a partner at the three-attorney firm, which handles family law, personal injury and corporate law matters. "Every new client we do a MySpace and Facebook search on to see if they or their spouse have any useful information."

In one case, Malbrough said she helped secure shared custody for the father after finding his wife had posted sexually explicit comments on her boyfriend’s MySpace page. In another case, a husband’s credibility was questioned because, on his MySpace page, he said he was single and looking.

Lawyers in civil and criminal cases are increasingly finding that social networking sites can contain treasure chests of information for their cases. Armed with printouts from sites such as Facebook and MySpace, attorneys have used pictures, comments and connections from these sites as powerful evidence in the courtroom.

"It’s going to be more and more helpful in the future," said Mark Diebolt, a deputy county attorney in Pima County, Ariz.

The free sites allow users to post comments, pictures and videos, build online networks and communicate with others. Users can set different privacy settings, but many have public profiles that anyone can view.

The popularity of these sites continues to grow — Facebook alone has more than 42 million active users.

Diebolt said an eyewitness recently identified a first-degree murder suspect in a group photograph posted on MySpace. Such social networking sites have also been helpful in prosecuting gang-related crimes.

"[Gang members] won’t say they committed a crime, but they talk about some of the behavior and antics which relate to why we’re looking for them," he said.

John Palfrey, executive director of The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, said that, because social networking sites are fairly new, there are not many court decisions about the admissibility of information from them in court. But judges have indicated that they will treat this information like other electronic evidence, Palfrey said.

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2 thoughts on “Lawyers Using Social Networking Sites For Legal Information”

  1. Jeff Paul Big League Players Club

    I’ve been reading your post and found it interesting! Internet Marketing these days is spread almost everywhere in the IT world. I run a blog on Internet Marketing so I can use something from your blog as well.

  2. I find it fascinating that lawyers can use such information without there being any privacy issues. Amazing. It goes to show that everything on the internet might as well be scratched into a bathroom stall wall somewhere, as anyone anywhere can read it.

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