A Boston pediatrician blogging under the pseudonym Flea has been outed. It happened in court. During cross-examination. On his own medical malpractice trial. And now it is the top story in the Boston Globe.A lawyer would have surely advised him not to post blog opinions while the trial is pending. Conventional wisdom is that it can only hurt. The opposing lawyer will search thru all your comments, and pick out whatever makes you look bad. The judge will think that the trial belongs in his court only, and will not like any comments on blog. And the judge will certainly dislike any comments that make him look bad.
Flea had written several posts about the upcoming trial, a wrongful death case involving a child. In the process he discussed his private prep sessions with his attorney, explaining how he had been coached to answer questions to be appealing to the jury, how he had been videotaped, and what materials his lawyers told him to read.
I started this blog knowing full well that if I had a lawyer then he would advise against the blog. He would say that it is too risky. I made the blog anonymous, but I knew full well that my wife would probably eventually discover it, and try to use it against me.
She did discover it, and then quietly waited until she could use it to maximal effectiveness. She told the judge about how I badmouthed the family court system, and told the court psychologist how I badmouthed inkblot tests. It didn't seem like any big deal to me, as I think that any reasonable person would be outraged by what I witnessed in family court.
I don't really know if this blog had any influence on any decision-makers in my case or not. It is too bad Doctor Flea settled his case, and it might have been a good experiment on how jurors might be influenced by some overly-candid online remarks. Some bloggers are assuming that Dr. Flea hurt his case by blogging, but I suspect that the case was in the control of insurance company lawyers, and they were very eager to settle just because they were nervous about having a client who goes against conventional wisdom. They like clients who do what they are told.
Update: There is still no public explanation for why Dr. Flea's case was settled, or why his blog was taken down. My guess is that Flea's insurance company lawyers didn't like him publicizing trial preparation tactics. Lawyers look after their own interests. The insurance company probably threatened Flea with a denial of coverage unless he shut down the blog and agreed to the settlement. I doubt that Flea voluntarily closed the blog, because it actually showed him to be pretty reasonable, and nothing really had any bearing on whether or not he owes any malpractice damages. A malpractice insurance policy will get you a legal defense, but possibly on terms dictated by the insurance company lawyers.