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Seriously, Tell Your Clients to Shut Up

By William Vogeler, Esq. on August 21, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It's hard to believe the poop that comes out of some litigants' mouths.

Paula Emerson is one of those people. She almost literally pooped on her own case.

She used a poop emoji on a Facebook post to threaten witnesses in her case. If you are getting sick of the excremental reference, think of it as a lesson on when to tell clients to shut up.

Right to Remain Silent

Emerson got a $17,000 sanction for her ill-advised post. For lawyers advising clients to shut up, she could be Exhibit A.

Unfortunately, there are way too many examples of clients who don't know what it means to remain silent. Seriously, that's why cops have to advise them.

But their attorneys should also tell them it's right to remain silent. Mark MacDougal, quoted on National Public Radio, said it's the "party admission" problem.

"When you make a statement that's unfriendly to your case, it can be used against you in court," he said. "That's why all good lawyers tell their clients to keep their mouths shut."

Shut Up, Legally Speaking

The hard part, of course, is that some clients don't take that advice. Not to name anyone in particular, but apparently tweets are official presidential statements.

Just saying, social media statements are easy pickings for prosecutors, opposing counsel and others to use against mouthy clients. As advocates, sometimes we have to tell clients they're just being stupid.

You can say you are "educating" them about their right to remain silent, party admission, felony stupid, etc. The challenge may be convincing them that you know more than they do.

But at least you can fulfill your duty when you tell them to just shut up, legally speaking.

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