As you might imagine, when I began blogging I looked for written guidance as to what was and was not acceptable. I even called the State Bar ethics hotline to see if there were any rules I could follow.
Most constraints on legal blogging seem to focus around issues of advertising (not a problem for me, I have new "clients" streaming in every day) and client confidentiality (okay, so I don't actually have "clients," so this doesn't apply either).
I then looked around for other prosecutor blogs to see what they were doing, I thought I'd contact the writers and get some tips. But I couldn't find any.
Which left me somewhat out in the cold.
Essentially, I had to set my own guidelines and I did this by asking two questions every time I blogged:
1. What did I see as ethically appropriate?
2. What would get me fired?
I follow some simple rules, flexible ones, that attempt to keep me on the right side of those questions. The main ones are:
- Do not write about ongoing cases. If I want to draw attention to one of my cases, say it's going to trial, then I let people know it's going to trial and I post a link to a news story about the case, without commenting on the facts myself. This cane be tough because I'd love to blog about what happened last week, I've been asked to do so, but I'm going to put some time between the event and my account of it.
- Do not generate, encourage, or participate in topics of controversy. Thus you won't find discussions about the death penalty, immigration, drug policy, or the Dallas Cowboys here.
- Treat everyone with respect. If I have a funny case where someone did something silly, or said something amusing, I will never tell you about it to humiliate that person and so won't identify them. We see so many funny things in court it's tempting to give every last detail but I try to be more respectful than that. The one time I will name someone is if they have done a really good job and warrant some attention.