The advice was given in 2017 in response to a post by a Facebook friend who described a "tumultuous" breakup with her child's father and inquired about the legality of carrying a gun in her car, according to court documents filed in the Supreme Court of Tennessee on Friday.
Read the Tennessee Supreme Court opinion In Re: Winston Bradshaw Sitton, BPR#018440
The court writes, "This case is a cautionary tale on the ethical problems that can befall lawyers on social media. The attorney had a Facebook page that described him as a lawyer. A Facebook 'friend' involved in a tumultuous relationship posted a public inquiry about carrying a gun in her car.
"In response to her post, the attorney posted comments on the escalating use of force. He then posted that, if the Facebook friend wanted 'to kill' her ex-boyfriend, she should 'lure' him into her home, 'claim' he broke in with intent to do her harm, and 'claim' she feared for her life. The attorney emphasized in his post that his advice was given 'as a lawyer,' and if she was 'remotely serious,' she should 'keep mum' and delete the entire comment thread because premeditation could be used against her at trial."
The Court continued, "The attorney’s advice, in and of itself, was clearly prejudicial to the administration of justice and violated the Rules of Professional Conduct. In addition, his choice to post the remarks on a public platform amplified their deleterious effect. The social media posts fostered a public perception that a lawyer’s role is to manufacture false defenses. They projected a public image of corruption of the judicial process."
Sitton, however, claimed his only intent in posting the Facebook comments was to convince his friend not to carry a gun in her car. He maintained that his Facebook posts about using the protection of the “castle doctrine” to lure the boyfriend into her home to kill him were “sarcasm” or “dark humor.”
Sitton defended himself further on Facebook: