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John Browning Highlights Social Media Vulnerabilities in Multiple Articles

May 8, 2020

Spencer Fane attorney John Browning recently published an article in the Texas Bar College Bulletin that spotlights a New York case in which a U.S. Attorney’s Office paralegal was indicted on federal witness tampering, obstruction of justice and conspiracy charges after having used her work computer to post a threatening video on YouTube.

The article, titled “It’s 5 O’clock: Do You Know What Your Legal Assistant Just Posted,” highlights the need for lawyers to be sensitive not only to their own conduct on social media but also the activities of their staff and assistants.

“The charges against Tawanna Hilliard illustrate yet another dimension of the ethical risks that can await lawyers when it comes to social media use,” Browning writes. “In addition to the myriad ways in which lawyers can find themselves in trouble for their own use of social media—from contacting represented parties to betraying client confidentiality—attorneys must also be mindful of their ethical obligations regarding their non-lawyer employees, such as legal assistants.”

John also published two articles in the May edition of the Texas Bar Journal. “Service of Process Via Social Media Comes to Texas” explains Texas’ recent adoption of using social networking platforms as a form of substituted service, adding Texas to the growing number of jurisdictions to have done so – including eight countries as well as a number of states and federal courts. John testified as an expert witness before the Texas Legislature on this issue. John’s second article, “Blocked in the Digital Age,” examines the First Amendment challenges that have been raised all over the country to the practice by elected officials of blocking their critics on social media.