Judge's Porn Habit Results In Suspension

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn October 23, 2012In: Electronic Monitoring

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Under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), an individual who wrongfully accesses information stored on a computer can be held civilly and/or criminally liable. Employers have attempted to use the CFAA to prosecute employees who steal the company's confidential information. Different jurisdictions have come down differently on the question of whether the CFAA can be used in the employment context.

What many employers do not know, though, is that almost every State, including Delaware, has a statute similar to the federal CFAA. And some such laws, including Delaware's, have provisions with even more severe penalties than their federal counterpart. Here's an unusual example of a State statute similar to the CFAA applied in the employment context.

State ex rel Oklahoma Bar Ass'n v. Olmstead, is a case of lawyer discipline. The lawyer was an elected judge in Harper County, Oklahoma, when he downloaded a "tremendous" volume of adult pornography on his State-issued computer. When the conduct was discovered, the judge resigned and was charged with 19 felony counts under Oklahoma's Computer Crimes Act, which would have required a prison sentence of between 30 days and 10 years for each count. The lawyer pleaded no contest to a single violation of the statute and was given a one-year deferred sentence.

After undergoing a mental-health evaluation, the trial panel recommended that the lawyer be subject to public censure for his violations of the disciplinary rules. The State Bar Association, though, argued that public censure was insufficient and urged the Oklahoma Supreme Court to issue a suspension under the State's rules of professional conduct.

The State's Supreme Court agreed, finding that the former judge's conduct "brought such disrepute upon the legal profession and the judiciary that significant is warranted." The Court went on to explain that "The act of downloading adult sexually suggestive materials in tremendous volume on a State owned computer is a very serious offense which should not be minimized."

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