On review of consent discipline entered into by the attorney and the State’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel, the Supreme Court of South Carolina took the opportunity to address two of the twelve troubling statements made by respondent on his public Facebook page which, according to ODC and admitted by the respondent, tended to bring the legal profession into disrepute while also violating the letter and spirit of the Lawyer’s Oath.
Initially, the Court noted that it was mindful of the attorney’s right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment. However, because the respondent did not raise a First Amendment challenge to the proposed discipline, the Court did not analyze the impact of the First Amendment.
Turning to the statements singled out by the Court:
The first was apparently a screed against tattoos: “The general statement has exceptions, such as for bikers, sailors, convicts or infantry. But these college educated, liberal suburbanites. No, the rule was written for these boring mother fuckers. And they are everywhere. Fuck em. Especially these females, Jesus Christ!”
The second was posted shortly after the murder of George Floyd: “Here’s how much that shitstain’s life actually mattered: Stock futures up. Markets moved higher Monday and Tuesday. Fuck you. Unfriend me.”
“We find these two comments warrant a six-month suspension” the Court held. “These comments are not expressive; they are expressly incendiary. Both are statements by a lawyer on his social media account identifying him as such and listing the name of his law firm. The statements were intended to incite, and had the effect of inciting, gender and race-based conflict beyond the scope of the conversation Respondent would otherwise have with his Facebook ‘friends’. The fact Respondent is a lawyer exacerbated this effect. We are particularly concerned with the statement regarding Mr. Floyd. We find this statement was intended to incite intensified racial conflict not only in Respondent’s Facebook community, but also in the broader community of Charleston and beyond. We hold this statement in particular tended to bring the legal profession into disrepute, violated the letter and spirit of the Lawyer’s Oath, and constitutes grounds for discipline.”
In re Traywick, No.2021-0021, 2021 WL 2492772 (S.C. June 18, 2021).
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