District judge urges caution with social networks

By Sean Barron



If you plan to work for Judge Benita Y. Pearson and belong to a social- networking website, be prepared to have her scrutinize your photographs and text.

Even if Judge Pearson isn’t your boss, you still should be careful what you post online.

That was a central message Judge Pearson, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, delivered during Friday’s annual Law Day luncheon in Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church’s parish hall, 343 Via Mount Carmel Drive.

Sponsoring the 90-minute gathering were the Mahoning County Bar Association and the Youngstown Rotary Club.

“[Social-networking sites] are a great tool, but you should know what you put online can be retrieved, shared and have dire consequences,” Judge Pearson told her audience of a few hundred attorneys, judges, students and others.

Members of such sites never should divulge confidential information about themselves and others, and attorneys should not use Facebook and other networking websites to comment on their cases or add inappropriate prestige to themselves, she cautioned.

In recent years, many youngsters have committed suicide partly because of cyber-bullying, which has become an epidemic, the judge noted.

The program was titled “The Legacy of John Adams: From Boston to Guantanamo,” which was in keeping with the luncheon’s theme of doing what’s right, even if it’s unpopular.

President Adams also was a lawyer who defended a British officer and eight British soldiers accused of firing into a crowd of protesters and killing five, in what famously became known as the “Boston Massacre.”

Adams’ difficult decision to represent the accused came from his strong belief in due process of law — even for unpopular and despised defendants — Judge Pearson explained.

To further illustrate that point, she cited “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the famous 1960 novel by Harper Lee in which a white lawyer defends an indigent black Alabama man accused of raping a white woman in the 1940s.

“I hope we understand that doing the right thing is important, even if it’s unpopular,” the judge concluded.

The main purpose of Law Day, established in 1958 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, is to call to the public’s attention to the principles and practice of American law and justice, Stephen N. Zack, president of the American Bar Association, said in a statement.

The gathering also featured awards for six Mahoning Valley students for their participation in an essay competition.

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