Legal Ethics

BigLaw partner suggests his own sanction for tweeting photos during trial

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A partner at Barnes & Thornburg in Chicago who faces possible sanctions for tweeting photos of evidence during a federal trial has proposed making a $1,000 donation as punishment.

In court papers (PDF) filed on Friday, Vincent “Trace” Schmeltz responded to the federal court’s request for his proposals on how to resolve the matter, the National Law Journal (sub. req.) reports. He has already apologized for violating the ban on photography and cellphone use.

Schmeltz proposed donating $1,000 to the Chicago Bar Association for a seminar on social media and legal ethics, without any public credit for the donation. He would authorize the bar to use his case as a cautionary tale.

Schmeltz also proposed two other steps to atone for his conduct. He would attend a continuing legal education program on ethics in social media. And he would donate at least 50 hours of his time next year to serve at the pro se assistance desk at the federal courthouse in Chicago.

Schmeltz is co-chair of the financial and regulatory litigation group at Barnes & Thornburg. He took the photos while watching the trial of a futures trader accused of violating anti-spoofing legislation by flooding the market with orders for futures contracts he never intended to execute.

Schmeltz said he tweeted the photos because he thought it would help others gain a better understanding of the evidence.

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