Turning Courtroom Discontent Into Raw Social Media Hostility in the Digital Public Square Gets Florida Attorney Nowhere
Since February 27, Florida lawyer Ashley Ann Krapacs has been suspended from practicing law in the state until further notice. She claims First Amendment protection.
The Florida Bar and Supreme Court of Florida point out that even the First Amendment has limits, and especially so when attorneys licensed by the state engage in threatening or demeaning speech.
Unhappy with the results of a case, she reportedly launched an “attack of massive and continuous proportions” via a number of social media platforms against two fellow Florida attorneys who represented adversaries involved in her case. This led to her suspension.
The Supreme Court has recognized and outlined regulations for the relationship between free speech and social media as a digital public square. In Krapacs’ case, the Bar has filed several addition petitions asking the court to hold her in contempt.
The Court’s decisions in these petitions will provide additional guidance for lawyers using social media as a theater of war.
A Case History in Brief
In January 2018, Krapacs filed a restraining order against her former boyfriend Greg Knoop, whom she claimed was “violently abusive” during their relationship.
The boyfriend’s attorney argued the order lacked jurisdiction over Knoop. Eventually, the court agreed, dismissing the restraint.
Krapacs felt she had been the target of a “Good Old Boy” court system based on the ruling. She re-filed for the restraining order the very next day. In conjunction, she began a social media outcry, which continued on a weekly basis.
Her rampage included insult and accusation against her former boyfriend, his female attorney, and later the judges and other professionals involved in her case, describing them as “aggressive”, “intimidating,” and “ bullies” among other things.
One post about Knoop’s attorney included a scene from Home Alone where the main character Kevin points a gun at the head of one of the robbers. Another mentioned the make of the attorney’s car.
In addition to the social media rants, she wrote an inflammatory article entitled, “When You Don’t Let Female Lawyers Talk, We’ll Only Get Louder,” and posted it to her firm’s website.
Krapacs said the social media campaign was her response to attempts to silence her, and her efforts to rectify the situation through the legal system were getting her nowhere.
The Florida Bar, however, saw things differently and asked the Supreme Court for an emergency suspension. The Court agreed.
What Was Included in the Petition for Emergency Suspension
Grave discrepancies in the interpretation of recorded court proceedings; and injunction for Protection Against Stalking from one targeted attorney, Nisha Bacchus; and documentation of attorney Russell Williams’ lawsuit for libel, slander, malicious prosecution, and injunctive relief.
A note within the petition also states, “The Bar is not concerned with the outcome of these proceedings, but rather that the Respondent’s conduct has caused two members of The Florida Bar to seek extraordinary relief.”
The Florida Bar’s petition and the Court’s emergency suspension come from a perspective that, instead of relying on the legal system to properly advocate her position, the discontented lawyer had targeted two other members of the Bar with these continuous “unilateral uncivilized public attacks” as a result of their representation of clients in litigation against her. In many circles, this is known as being a sore loser.
It seems Ms. Krapacs has mistaken First Amendment protection for a shield from scrutiny of her actions by the state bar, to which she and all Florida attorneys voluntarily submit as the agency that licenses and regulates attorneys as an arm of the Supreme Court.
As a legal professional, she has a duty to refrain from knowingly disparaging or humiliating others. Even if the Bar did not have such rules of decency for attorneys, the First Amendment does not protect speech of the type she launched on social media.
Stay tuned for the Supreme Court’s orders following the Bar’s petitions for contempt.Share