Ah, Facebook. Ten years after its inception and we still haven't learned: The site is only good for posting pictures of babies and "Remember the 90s" listicles. Seriously folks, nobody cares about your political views, terrible music taste (guilty), or disgusting racism. If you wouldn't yell, "____ people are _____" in the office, or in public, then you shouldn't put it on Facebook either.
Two assistant public defenders in Broward County, Florida, just learned that lesson after posting anti-Palestinian hate speech on Facebook. Fortunately, their much more enlightened boss quickly moved to terminate the two attorneys, citing the fact that, ya know, public defenders shouldn't be spouting hate speech while working in a diverse office serving diverse clients.
Violence Begets Ignorance
In a comment on a post about the recent kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens, Gary Sheres, a former public defender, wrote, "They are the filthy swine they don't eat. Their ignorance to the world bewilders the dumbest people I have ever met."
He would later tell the Sun-Sentinel that the comments were directed at those featured in the article -- i.e., Palestinians celebrating the tragedy -- rather than the ethnic group as a whole.
Except that his account also "liked" a comment by Bruce Raticoff, a fellow public defender, which read: "That's why the Palestinian people are considered the cockroaches of the world. Reprehensible and despicable with utter disregard for civility and humanity. Burn them to the ground."
Raticoff, for his part, told the newspaper that someone else had posted the comment using his account. The newspaper ran the story after a concerned fellow Facebook user forwarded the comments to the paper, pondering whether individuals who would express such sentiments could represent Palestinian defendants.
Public Defender's Office Responds
Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein denounced the comments and promised to investigate the situation immediately. Six days later, he terminated Sheres and Raticoff, reports the Sun-Sentinel.
Finkelstein made the announcement this morning, stating that it is "[t]ime for us to learn and grow and draw the line in the sand firmly that as public defenders we have a higher calling and we cannot engage in hate speech that interferes with the mission of this office which is equal justice for all."
Raticoff stands by his story that someone else used his account. His lawyer presented an affidavit from the perpetrator's mother, but Finkelstein wasn't swayed. He told the Sun-Sentinel that Raticoff had previously been in trouble for forwarding an anti-Muslim joke around the office and had been overheard discussing the Facebook post at issue.
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- Top 5 Social Media Mishaps by Lawyers and Law Students of 2013 (FindLaw's Strategist)
- Will it Soon be Malpractice Not to be Social Media Savvy? (FindLaw's Strategist)
- Walmart Worker Fired for Anti-Muslim Facebook Rant (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)