These days, the duty of technology competence requires lawyers not only to know how to use Zoom, but also to remember that it can record you.

It seems a lawyer inconveniently forgot that fact when he flipped the bird during his opponent’s appellate argument on Zoom, and then denied it.

It was an expensive lesson, as the combination of those two acts — of flipping the bird and then denying it — cost him $3,000.

It all happened during an oral argument on Zoom before the Michigan Court of Appeals. According to the court’s subsequent order, attorney James Heos “raised his middle finger toward the camera while opposing counsel was arguing.”

That editorial gesture may have been trouble enough, but, according to the court’s order, “When members of the panel questioned attorney Heos regarding his obscene gesture, he denied doing so, although the record plainly reflects that he did so.”

The price tag for this lawyer’s lapse: the court ordered him to pay a fine of $3,000 and referral to the Michigan attorney grievance committee for investigation.

“Mr. Heos exhibited shameful disrespect to the Court and to opposing counsel in his offensive gesture and his dishonest replies to the Court’s inquiries,” the court said.

As for Heos, he told the Detroit Free Press that he thought he was gesturing at his blank computer screen and was unaware the judges could see him.

“He said he is technologically challenged — ‘the only thing I can really do is generate my emails’ — and was frustrated because his computer had been malfunctioning for days and he had been assured it would be working for this important hearing in a medical malpractice case,” the Free Press reported.

Image by Richard Reid from Pixabay.

Photo of Bob Ambrogi Bob Ambrogi

Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division.