Legal Ethics

BigLaw partner is ordered to donate $5,000 for tweeting photos during federal trial

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A partner at Barnes & Thornburg in Chicago will have to donate $5,000 to the Chicago Bar Foundation as a sanction for tweeting photos of evidence while observing a federal trial.

A committee of federal judges sanctioned lawyer Vincent “Trace” Schmeltz in a Dec. 10 order, the National Law Journal (sub. req.) reports. Schmeltz had said he didn’t notice the sign outside the courtroom barring photographs and recordings.

The sanction is larger than the $1,000 donation Schmeltz proposed in response to the court’s request for his proposals on how to resolve the matter.

The court accepted two other sanction recommendations by Schmeltz: that he attend a continuing legal education program on ethics in social media and that he donate at least 50 hours to the pro se assistance desk at the federal courthouse in Chicago.

The order said the sanctions were “necessary and appropriate in view of the Executive Committee’s conclusion that Mr. Schmeltz’s violations were economically motivated.” Schmeltz is co-chair of the financial and regulatory litigation group at Barnes & Thornburg.

Schmeltz had been asked in the sanctions hearing whether he tweeted the photos while watching the high-profile trial to generate business. He said his intent was to help others gain a better understanding of the evidence.

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