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Lawyer’s Facebook post leads to defamation suit

Two Virginia Beach lawyers have crossed swords after one posted “jesting” comments about the other on a Facebook page.

Defense attorney Jason Swango filed a $600,000 defamation suit against  defense attorney Daniel J. Miller and his firm, according to The Virginian-Pilot. The suit alleges that Miller snapped a photo of Swango and his client at the bench in Virginia Beach General District Court, and posted the shot on Facebook with the following caption: “Notice the stain on this guys jail suit when he realized who he had as an attorney.” Miller also commented, “Based upon what I saw I think Jason Swango should’ve paid him,” the suit claims.

Swango, represented by Chesapeake attorney Barry Taylor, claimed the post included untrue information and hurt his reputation.

Miller’s attorney, R. Craig Gallagher of Norfolk, argued the post was intended as a good-nature jest. In his response to the suit, Miller said he was expressing his opinion, which is a protected form of speech, and asked the court to dismiss the claim.

The fact that the Facebook post included a photo taken in court also prompted a crackdown on lawyers’ use of cellphones at the courthouse. A couple weeks after the post appeared on Facebook, the court issued an order requiring lawyers and others allowed to bring cellphones into the courthouse to turn off all devices while in the courtroom, citing “numerous abuses of the privilege.”

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