NY Ethics Opinion on Public Information on Social Media Sites

The New York State Bar Association has decided that it is ethical for lawyers to gather information on adverse parties in litigation from publicly accessible social media pages of those parties. Lawyers are not allowed to ‘friend’ the adverse parties, or have anyone else do so. (This is consistent with the Philadelphia Bar opinion from last year.)

A story about the Philadelphia Bar view is here (the Bar’s own site is currently down for maintenance).

Here’s how the press characterized the NY State ruling: “Lawyers may comb social media for dirt”. Does that strike you as fair?

What would we say? There are cases dealing with discovery of private pages on social media sites, and there is at least some authority that courts can consider privacy issues as well as relevance issues. However, those cases did not deal with how lawyers might find out what is on the sites in the first place.

Does the NY State Bar view accord with Canadian principles of ethics? If not, how and why not?

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