Internet Law

Judge delays civil trial because of lawyer's Facebook post

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An Iowa judge has delayed a civil trial because of a Facebook post by a high-profile trial lawyer.

In a ruling last week, the Polk County judge delayed the trial until November because of the post by lawyer Roxanne Conlin of Des Moines, the Des Moines Register reports in an editorial. “For judges, lawyers and their clients, the lesson is clear,” the editorial says. “When it comes to social media, the less said, the better.”

The judge ruled in response to a request by opposing lawyers, who claimed Conlin’s post would unfairly influence potential jurors. The opposing lawyers represent Anthony Zane Blessum, a suspended lawyer who is being sued by Conlin’s client for alleged false imprisonment stemming from a June 2012 assault.

Blessum pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault in the criminal case. In March, the Iowa Supreme Court suspended Blessum’s law license for 18 months after finding that the woman he hit during an argument was a client with whom he had a sexual relationship, according to a former story by the Des Moines Register. In the woman’s 911 call to police, the woman can be heard saying, “Please let me go. … I beg you to let me go.”

Conlin wrote this on Facebook: “I am going to trial on Monday in a case where Zane Blessum, former county attorney in Madison County, slept with his client and then beat her up. … The case was being handled by another lawyer until he developed a conflict, so I have only been in it for a few weeks. I am really scrambling to get up to speed. It is one of those cases where I feel duty bound to take it because I have an obligation to my own profession. The bar (association) Grievance Commission recommended that his license be suspended for four years. The Supreme Court affirmed their findings, but reduced the penalty to 18 months. Yet another example of why an all-white, all-male court really needs a woman. I hope a jury will be a little harder on him!”

Conlin told the Des Moines Register that she “deleted the post immediately” when she heard of the concerns.

“I was at fault for posting it,” Conlin said, “and I have turned this over and over in my mind. I tell my clients to stay off of social media, you know. But sometimes we lawyers forget to follow our own advice.”

Misspelling of Conlin’s name corrected on July 15.

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