Lying To The Court In The Age Of Instagram

Posted on by Phil Querin

Instagram is a simple way to capture and share the world’s moments. Follow your friends and family to see what they’re up to…. [Instagram App on Google]

Drats! Foiled Again!  It appears that social media, for all its oddities, can also prove that pictures are worth…well, thousands of dollars in court sanctions.  It also  proves that social media, even for lawyers, who should know better, invites its users to throw caution to the wind.

According to a New Jersey Law Journal article (here), it seems a labor and employment lawyer in New York failed to meet a November 23, 2016, filing deadline for a motion. Sixteen days later, she filed the belated motion, along with a request for an extension of time (apparently choosing to ask for forgiveness, rather than permission).

The lawyer’s explanation for the belated filing and requested extension, was because she made an unplanned trip to Mexico City to see to her ailing mother.

Her request was accompanied with what appeared to be an itinerary from travel website despegar.com showing her flight from New York to Mexico City on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2016, and a return flight on Dec. 8 of that year.

However, opposing counsel (attorneys from three different firms) objected to the belated motion, with one pointing out, among other things, that her “…purported flight itinerary showed her taking a flight to Mexico City on Thursday, Nov. 21, but defense lawyer Benjamin Xue pointed out that Nov. 21 was a Monday, not a Thursday.” In other words, while concocting her bogus online itinerary, she misread her calendar. But what was perhaps the biggest “gotcha” moment was the lawyer’s own Instagram account which:

…showed her in New York, and then in Miami, during the period she claimed to be in Mexico.

***

Exhibits filed by the defendants showed screenshots from [her] Instagram account during the period she claimed to be caring for her sick mother in Mexico. The photos appear to show [her] having Thanksgiving dinner in New York, and later, in Miami, visiting a bar, attending an art exhibit and working on a laptop computer next to a pool.

Apparently, the lure of showing friends and family that she’s living the high life over the holidays outweighed the (rather obvious) risk that opposing counsel would check out her story.  Missing a filing deadline by 16 days over the Thanksgiving holidays without a word, and then belatedly filing a motion accompanied by a “sick mother in Mexico” story, begs to be vetted.

On  April 26, 2018, the attorney was sanctioned $10,000 by the court. (Collectively, the three lawfirms sought over $44,000 in attorney fees and costs, though they had a hard time convincing the court of the legitimacy of their time entries.)  This may not be the end of this lawyer’s travails. Oregon attorneys have lost their bar license for lesser stunts. ~Phil

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