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Engaging with media? Tread carefully

Running cases which attract a lot of media attention is always challenging, and the circumstances can lead even the most experienced of lawyers to cross the line – as a recent matter in the US shows.

David Kenner, a lawyer known for representing high-profile litigants, pleaded guilty to leaking grand jury information to reporters in a case involving one of his celebrity clients.1 As reported earlier in Proctor, that client is now suing Kenner for his undisclosed use of AI.

Kenner, who has practised law for more than 50 years, was sentenced to a year of unsupervised probation after pleading guilty to contempt of court. He was also fined $5000.

Kenner had given grand jury information and photos to reporters, in defiance of an order of the court prohibiting the sharing of the information. The trial was well-covered in the media, as it included testimony from actor Leonardo DiCaprio and former US Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Kenner had sought written assurances from the reporters in relation to the information, which do not appear to have been forthcoming.

The 24/7 news cycle and the rise of digital media have led to greater interest in court matters, and more opportunity for lawyers to speak with the media. Some lawyers even proactively engage with media, or announce the investigation or commencement of high-profile matters via press release.

Practitioners contemplating engaging with media should tread carefully, and may wish to consult the QLS Guidance Statement No.32 Solicitors commenting to the media.

There may be times when commenting to the media is necessary – and even desirable – but it is important to get it right. As this case shows, getting it wrong can be a disaster.

Footnote
1 As reported in USA Today 29/1/24

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