Blog Postings Cost Lawyer His Job When Read by Judge

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Lawyer Jay Kuo had at least some not so insignificant others reading his LiveJournal.com blog that he wasn’t counting on – including both the opposing counsel and the judge in the criminal trial he was prosecuting. Now Kuo is not only out of court, but out of a job.

Ed. Note: What is it with young lawyers and the Internet? First law school grad Diana Abdala talks herself out of a law job in an all-too-public email trail, and now this.


It all started when San Francisco attorney Jay Kuo, a graduate of Berkeley’s Boalt School of Law, and an up and coming litigator on the partnership track at the tony San Francisco law firm of Keker & Van Nest, was loaned out to the San Francisco District Attorney’s office under a prosecutor loaner program. Said Kuo in his LiveJournal blog on the eve of his new assignment, “Tomorrow I start my tour of duty at the San Francisco DA’s office. I’ve been really looking forward to this.”

In fact, ironically, just a few days later on December 8th Kuo notes in his blog that a partnership review of his performance that day indicated that “there is ‘high confidence’ that I am on track for partnership.” The final review was to take place just a few months after his stint at the DA’s office.

But what a difference a week makes. For by December 15th, that very same blog became his downfall.

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But let’s back up. We last left our intrepid young attorney about to experience life as a loaner DA. That was on Monday, November 28th. That Friday, in the start of the blog trail that was his undoing, Kuo referred to the public defender opposite him on a case as “very nasty and not terribly impressive,” and concludes by taking her to task with a “tsk tsk” and a veiled swipe at the judge’s grasp of the current state of the law.

He then goes on to openly talk about the defendant’s prior arrests for drug sales and impersonation of an officer, which of course is a big no-no because they are not necessarily admissible as evidence, and hey, this was a public blog.

The following Monday he blogs about the public defender again, saying of her request for a continuance that “the delay tactic and conflict claim was classic PD behavior when they need more time to prepare,” and that she “is crying she doesn’t have enough time to prepare based on newly discovered evidence.”

 

Ok, this isn’t very kind, but it’s not necessarily earth shattering, and hey, it’s just someone’s little blog, right?

Wrong. Because you see, not only was it public, but the PD and the judge found it, and the best was yet to come, when three days later Kuo wrote, following another request by the public defender for a continuance, that “The Public Defender pulled the “I’m pregnant, and I can’t proceed.” IN THE MIDDLE OF JURY SELECTION. Her doctor said that this was supposed to be her last trial – there was no medical emergency preventing her from going forward. She’s just chicken. Chic-KEN!” The title of the post was a string of obscenities.

Well, it seems that the chicken was reading his blog, and in a subsequent motion to dismiss the entire case based on the blog’s contents, while Judge Curtis Karnow held that the blog postings didn’t affect the case enough to warrant dismissing the case (because that was not Kuo’s intent and “Such thoughts were far from mind: He sought only to celebrate himself, tout his prowess and to preen his own feathers, as it were, unconscious of other effect”), still Judge Karnow declared that Kuo’s conduct was “juvenile, obnoxious and unprofessional,” and that Kuo should have known that because he was posting to a blog, his comments could have been “uncontrollably distributed.” Judge Karnow concluded by indicating that he was going to report Kuo to the state bar.

Within a few weeks Kuo was gone from the DA’s office, and from Keker & Van Nest (where, remember, he had been on partnership track just weeks before).

So what is the lesson here?

Says John Steele, who teaches legal ethics at Boalt, “Prosecutors carry extra duties when it comes to writing about an ongoing proceeding.” As in, don’t do it.

And the San Francisco DA’s office has now updated their employee manual to make clear that criminal cases are not to be discussed on the Internet.

But this doesn’t just apply to criminal lawyers, or, indeed, just to lawyers at all. There are countless stories out there of loose lips sinking the author’s ship. If you can’t afford to say it in front of others, and to have it repeated by others, than for goodness sake, don’t put it on the Internet. Anywhere.

As for Jay Kuo, he is now in the middle of directing his own musical, “Insignificant Others”, which opens at the New Conservatory Theatre Center in San Francisco in July. We wish him well.

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3 thoughts on “Blog Postings Cost Lawyer His Job When Read by Judge

  1. Hi I need peaceful inhouse job and I have applied to most of the job sites more times than I’d care to recall and sent off hundreds of resumes. However, i have not been able to find a single good response to my resumes. If anyone knows about particular inhouse job search that provides inhouse job search advice, please revert me with the location details. I will be thankful to you for your early response.

  2. Duh, you numbskull. You just highlight the story with your mouse (you know how to highlight don’t you?), Copy and then Paste it into a text editor. Are you old enough to wield a mouse…? Jeez.

  3. how do i just copy the story instead of all the garbage alongside of the story..it prints out to 4 pages of garbage when I only want the story thanks.
    how do you find out where a story came from when people use webpage to distribute it on the web.

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