Utah Bar Journal
Vol. 26, No. 1. 60.
Young Lawyers Division
Utah Bar JournalVolume 26 No. 1Jan/Feb 2013Young Lawyers DivisionGrappling With Social Media as a Legal Practitionerby Jaelynn JenkinsSocial media outlets allow individuals to create custom online identities, foster relationships, and participate in online communities of users sharing similar interests. For the rising generation, online communication is crucial to connecting with the world.
All social networking sites allow users to create personal profiles, veritable treasure troves of personal information. It is no wonder that the abundance of personal information available through these sites has caught the attention of the legal community. Legal practitioners are discovering that the use of social media sites as sources of information is giving rise to some novel legal issues.
The type and amount of information which can be gleaned from social networking sites - photos, videos, personal statements -can be useful in all kinds of cases including criminal, personal injury, employment, and family law. The viable use of such information in a legal setting has not, however, been seamless. Social networking sites, and the information found through them, raise issues surrounding attorney conduct, discovery methods, and the admission of evidence.
Applying the Standing Rules
A legal practitioner should keep in mind that information gathered from social networking sites is no different from any other relevant information historically gathered for legal action merely because it is gathered from a new source - social media. Practitioners should look to existing rules and frameworks as guides to the appropriate use of information found through social media.
Content taken from social media sites easily fits into the existing definition of electronically stored information which includes "writings, drawings, graphs, charts, photographs, sound recordings, images, and other data or data compilations," Fed. R. Civ. P. 34(a)(1)(A), which means it is discoverable under Rule 26(b) of both the Federal and Utah Rules of Civil Procedure.
The Rules of Civil Procedure also serve to temper and guide the discovery of information found on social networking sites. A broad discovery request for access to the opposing party's entire Facebook profile or Twitter feed may...