This week’s highlights
- Felon who posted video of an illegally owned firearm on Snapchat had “no reasonable expectation of privacy,” thus there was no constitutional violation when an undercover police officer acted on it
- Police in Alabama town accused of inflating traffic violations, then intimidating and threatening those who complain on social media
- An Indiana attorney is suspended after threatening to expose intimate photos of a woman if she continued to seek a protective order against his client
- More big law partners embrace virtual law firms for the long term
- A class action lawsuit has been proposed against Poland Springs water for not having enough lemon in their “Twist of Lemon” product
Undercover cop who befriended man on Snapchat was in the right to use stories as evidence, rules Massachusetts court
A top Massachusetts court ruled that Averyk Carrasquillo, a felon banned from possessing guns, had “no reasonable expectation of privacy” when he posted video of gun that he was not legally allowed to possess. One of Carrasquillo’s Snapchat “friends” was an undercover police officer. The officer saw the video and, along with other posts to Carrasquillo’s story, was able to locate him and make an arrest. The illegally possessed revolver was recovered from his pocket.
Carrasquillo posted a video in stories that showed an individual from the chest down displaying what appeared to be a silver revolver. He was wearing distinctive clothing. Another story showed Carrasquillo in a weightlifting gym. Officers outside the gym saw Carrasquillo wearing the same distinctive clothing. They made an arrest and recovered a revolver from Carrasquillo’s pocket. In this case, Carrasquillo was unaware of his privacy settings, and his stories were routinely visible to his approximately 100 Snapchat friends. He also demonstrated that he did not control access to his account when he granted the officer’s friend request, the court said. (Via ABA Journal)
The court specified that this ruling does not necessarily apply to all cases of social media evidence. They say that each case must be evaluated based on the totality of circumstances.
Alabama local police accused of intimidating and threatening people on social media
Police in a small Alabama town came under fire after harassing drivers with excessive fees, fines, vehicle seizures, and more. Now, the Brookside police department is again making national headlines after townspeople claim that officers are patrolling social media posts and threatening to arrest those who criticize the department.
This situation began with the appointment of Police Chief Mike Jones in 2018. Jones has since stepped down, but residents still allege that the remaining officers continue to threaten criminal charges in retaliation for social media commentary.
The new chief’s directives had an immediate effect on officers, who took to the (very few) streets in unmarked cars while wearing unmarked uniforms. The resulting influx of traffic citation defendants pulled officers from the remarkably un-dangerous streets of rural Brookside to perform traffic control for the dozens of out-of-towners driving into Brookside to attend once-a-month court sessions…Drivers who have had the displeasure of interacting with the Brookside PD aren’t happy. And their complaints have made their way to social media services…[Drivers] have come forward to complain about Brookside cops issuing less-than-implicit threats about online criticism. Another driver pulled over by a Brookside officer claimed the cop confiscated her phone, “explaining” that the PD often had drivers try to “stop and record us.” (Via Above the Law)
In 2019, Brookside resident Michelle Jones made an official complaint to the attorney general. This is a developing story.
Indiana lawyer suspended after threatening to expose intimate photos of the woman seeking a protective order against his client
Attorney Allen R. Stout of Angola, Indiana has been suspended for 90 days after threatening to expose a woman’s intimate photos in court records.
The incident happened during a deposition attended by the unrepresented woman, a court reporter, and others in Stout’s firm.
Stout confronted the woman with several 8-by-10-inch color copies of intimate photos that she had sent Stout’s client during their relationship, “displaying them facing up on the table for all in attendance to see,” the court said in its order. Stout then asked, “Why do women who seek the aid of the court send these kinds of pictures to men?” Stout “then asked her if she still intended to pursue a protective order or whether there would be a ‘better way’ to handle things than for her to be ‘drug through’ and ‘exposed in’ the court,” the order said. The woman replied that she just wanted Stout’s client to stop harassing her. (Via ABA Journal)
After the deposition, the woman immediately dismissed her case.
Reportedly, Stout later bragged that he had secured the dismissal by threatening to make those photos part of the public record.
From ABA Journal: “The Indiana Supreme Court affirmed a hearing officer’s findings that Stout’s conduct violated rules banning false statements of material fact; conduct that involves dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation; and conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.”
More big law partners embrace virtual law firms
Big law partners are showing an increasing preference for virtual law firms, and the revenue growth of these firms may hint at the reasons why.
While Potomac, which is now up to 120 attorneys in 20 states, has previously had success hiring counsel-level attorneys from Am Law 100 firms, it’s now gaining more traction among partners, according to managing partner Benjamin Lieber. “You have a lot of lawyers at big, traditional firms who are unhappy. They would like a move to something like a virtual firm, but they were previously apprehensive about it. They always had the marble and mahogany and people all around them taking care of them,” he said. “COVID thrust them into an environment where they can work from home. People said, ‘I can do this. It’s great.’” (Via Legaltech News by Law.com)
Potomac Law Group grew 41% in 2021, while other major firms have seen similar growth. Law.com continues:
Head count also continues to rise at FisherBroyles, the largest distributed firm in the U.S. and the first to crack the Am Law. Co-managing partner James Fisher earlier this year credited that firm’s strong 2021 performance—30% revenue growth to hit $136 million—to the normalization of remote work during the pandemic.
Poland Springs facing class action lawsuit because there is not enough lemon in their “Twist of Lemon” product
Earlier in February, a lawsuit was proposed alleging that Poland Springs Water misled consumers with their “twist of lemon” claim.
The plaintiff, Timothy Alexander, argued that the claim “a twist of lemon” refers to the “literal twisting of the outer portion of a lemon round,” and would cause a consumer to believe that the water contained actual lemon juice. However, as estimated in the complaint, the water likely only contained approximately 0.1 mL of lemon ingredients. (Via The National Law Review)
The complaint states that the value of the water in question is materially less than the value represented, and the water was sold at higher prices than it would have been without the “twist of lemon.” Alexander seeks to represent customers under Illinois’ customer fraud and deceptive practices law.