Legal Ethics

BigLaw partner faces possible sanction for tweeting photos during trial

  • Print

A partner at Barnes & Thornburg in Chicago has been ordered to appear before a federal judge to face possible sanctions for tweeting photos of evidence during the recent trial of a New Jersey trader.

The lawyer, Vincent “Trace” Schmeltz, was ordered (PDF) on Friday to show cause why he shouldn’t be sanctioned for violating the ban on photography and cellphone use in the courtroom, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Schmeltz took the photos during the trial of futures trader Michael Coscia, who was convicted on Nov. 3 for violating anti-spoofing legislation by flooding the market with orders for futures contracts he never intended to execute, the Chicago Tribune reported in a prior story. The spoofs moved prices for less than a second, allowing Coscia’s computer program to execute small trades that reaped profits.

Schmeltz was observing the trial from the spectator’s gallery when an FBI agent saw him snapping photos of evidence presented on large screen monitors in U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber’s Chicago courtroom, according to the order to show cause. His tweets from @TraceSchmeltz included the photos with explanations, such as, “Programmer agrees with prosecutor that effort to stimulate market activity ‘could’ impact pricing.”

A four-foot sign posted outside the courtroom warns that “photographing, recording or broadcasting is prohibited,” according to the order to show cause.

Schmeltz, who is co-chair of the financial and regulatory litigation group at Barnes & Thornburg, told the Chicago Tribune he didn’t notice the ban on photography. He said he was careful to take photos of only the evidence, and not jurors or witnesses, and he deleted the tweets when he learned of the ban.

“I’m not used to being a spectator,” Schmeltz told the Tribune. “It’s a lesson learned on my part.”

Schmeltz’s show-cause hearing, originally scheduled for Dec. 8, has been rescheduled for Nov. 24. He will appear before U.S. District Chief Judge Ruben Castillo, chief judge of the Northern District of Illinois.

Spelling of Barnes & Thornburg corrected at 8:50 a.m.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.