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Should Attorneys Defend Their Clients in News Comments?

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on August 15, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Attorneys have many duties to their clients, including the duty to zealously advocate on their behalf. But does that expand to the duty to comment on news articles describing the case?

The duties of representation all have limits. That allows both for work-life balance and for lawyers to split their time and energy among multiple clients. But in some cases, that extra bit of work on behalf of a client takes little time and effort.

The question of how far attorneys should go to defend clients comes from a real example.

On Monday, FindLaw's Blotter referenced a New York Daily News article on the recent arrest of Kelley McKenzy Watson. She is accused of having a sexual relationship with a minor who used to be her students.

One of the comments in the NY Daily News article claimed to be by an attorney from the firm representing Ms. Watson.

The comment, by PWallin, points out that Ms. Watson is innocent until proven guilty and is confident that she will be found not guilty by a jury.

No one would dispute that the firm has a duty to defend Ms. Watson at trial and use their skills to sway the jury that she is not guilty. But commenting on a news article is not clearly within that duty.

It's not verified that Ms. Watson's attorney is the real commenter on this article. Assuming that he is, this method of response seems more unusual than a similar comment made to reporters and published in the piece.

Social media is often a good tool for publicity. But this strategy is not one that's often talked about.

It's unlikely that ethical duties will extend to require defending clients in the news as well as in court. But it's possible that doing so is still a good idea. Or maybe a bad one. Tell us on Facebook or Twitter what you think about attorneys using website commenting to respond to the media.

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