Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Ethics Case Over Facebook 'Friending' Can Proceed | New Jersey Law Journal

Ethics Case Over Facebook 'Friending' Can Proceed | New Jersey Law Journal: "Two New Jersey lawyers charged with ethics violations for their use of Facebook in defending a personal injury suit have lost their bid to derail the disciplinary action against them. On Feb. 3, an appeals panel in Robertelli v. New Jersey Office of Attorney Ethics upheld the dismissal of the lawyers’ declaratory judgment action against state ethics authorities for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, saying that only the state Supreme Court can decide whether the ethics case was properly brought. The lawyers, John Robertelli and Gabriel Adamo, allegedly had a paralegal “friend” personal injury plaintiff Dennis Hernandez on Facebook, according to court documents.
Hernandez filed an ethics grievance but the District Ethics Committee (DEC) saw no unethical conduct and declined to docket it, court documents said. Hernandez’s lawyer then wrote to the state Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE), which did its own investigation and wound up filing its own formal complaint. The OAE has charged Robertelli and Adamo with multiple violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPCs), including prohibitions on communicating with someone who is represented by counsel; conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation; and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.
In addition, both lawyers are accused of failing to supervise a non-legal assistant and Robertelli, a partner with the Hackensack, N.J., office of Rivkin Radler, is accused of failing to supervise a subordinate lawyer, Adamo, who was then an associate at the firm. Robertelli and Adamo represented the Borough of Oakland, N.J., its police department and police sergeant Brian Coughlan in a suit by Hernandez, who claimed he was injured in 2007 when hit by a police car Coughlan was driving, according to court documents.  Hernandez, then 18, claimed he fractured his femur, requiring multiple surgeries.
According to the ethics complaint, Rivkin Radler paralegal Valentina Estela Cordoba was instructed to search the Internet for information about Hernandez and accessed his Facebook page at the direction of Robertelli and Adamo. The page was initially public, but when Hernandez tightened his privacy settings, Cordoba maintained her access by submitting a friend request, using her real name but without revealing that she worked for Rivkin Radler, the complaint says. The appeals court mentioned a video recording of Hernandez wrestling, that was later determined to have pre-dated the accident."

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