Lawyer fined $2k for Facebook posts

A solicitor has been reprimanded and fined $2000 after posting comments on his client’s Facebook page about ongoing criminal proceedings.

Anthony De Fraine was charged by the Legal Services Commissioner (LSC) with engaging in conduct likely to a material degree to bring the legal profession into disrepute over the posts he made in April 2021.

Mr De Fraine’s client, who had been charged with using a carriage service to make a threat, posted photos on social media, about which Mr De Fraine made comments.

Those comments including that his client was “too pretty for jail”, “not going to jail on my watch” and that “In the hoods where I’ve run people know DeFraine keeps all the boys out of jail”.

Mr De Fraine also commented that he was looking forward to his client’s ex-partner having “a summary trial to experience”.

He and the LSC agreed that by making the posts, the lawyer had behaved contrary to Rule 5.1.2 of the Australian Solicitor Conduct Rules 2012, and that his actions constituted unsatisfactory professional conduct.


In the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal’s disciplinary application decision published last week, Justice Williams referred to the Queensland Law Society’s Guidance Statement No. 24 in relation to ‘Ethical considerations on the use of social media and law practice websites’.

She said the statement “discusses the practical ethical issues which arise and also provides some suggested ‘good practice’ in respect of these issues and avoiding potential ‘pitfalls’“.

“The tribunal has previously dealt with disciplinary applications involving conduct where comments and material were published to an identified email group,” she said.

“However, the specific issue of the improper use of social media by legal practitioners has not previously been the subject of disciplinary proceedings before this tribunal.”

Justice Wiliams pointed out the posts were publicly available and had been accessed and captured by the LSC following receipt of a complaint in May 2021.

She said Mr De Fraine’s “decision to provide a running commentary on social media in relation to an active current legal matter before the court, demonstrates a lack of professionalism and also a lack of understanding of his ongoing duties as an officer of the court”.


The LSC contended that members of the public are entitled to expect that a reasonably competent Australian legal practitioner would not:

  • publicly name clients on social media websites such as Facebook;
  • make known to a client’s social media network that he or she is the subject of criminal proceedings;
  • make unprofessional comments in relation to keeping “the boys” out of jail;
  • discuss specific details in relation to a client’s criminal law matter on social media, particularly the involvement of the Criminal Investigation Branch; and
  • make a post on social media which identifies the client’s ex-partner who “has a summary trial to experience”, which the respondent is “looking forward to”.

Mr De Fraine, who was admitted in New South Wales in 2006, had been the subject of disciplinary proceedings in 2015, where he was found to have engaged in legal practice without a practising certificate. His conduct was deemed professional misconduct, and he was publicly reprimanded and fined $500.

“The respondent’s prior disciplinary history is relevant to the sanction to the extent that it may be relevant to the considerations as to ensuring the protection of the public,” Justice Williams said.

However, she said Mr De Fraine had indicated he no longer intended to practise law and in light of this, the LSC had submitted his conduct “in the particular circumstances of this case does not warrant a restrictive or onerous order to protect the public”.

Mr De Fraine had also shown remorse, and acknowledged he had “brought shame on his family”, she said.

She concluded the risk of the conduct reoccurring was low, as was the need for the protection of the community and the need for personal deterrence.


Mr De Fraine was given six months to pay the fine, and ordered to pay the LSC’s costs.

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