A lawyer in Nashville suspended his state license for a year after explaining to a woman on Facebook how to murder and get away with her allegedly “abusive” ex-husband.
In a 2017 Facebook post, Winston B. Sitton advised an unnamed “friend” from Memphis, whom he called a “cheerleader” and “abused, disabled mother”, on how to protect herself from her former partner, whom he claimed was him I beat him “brutally” in front of her son in a restaurant.
On the news, Sitton suggested luring her ex-partner over to her home and shooting him instead of keeping a gun in her car.
The lawyer claimed that if the killing took place in their home, a person’s mother would be more likely to successfully use “lethal force” self-defense.
Last week, Justice Holly Kirby of the Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Sutton’s license for one year, and three more on probation, because he put the profession in a “corrupt” light.
Calling it a “cautionary story about the ethical issues lawyers can face on social media,” she urged them to treat social media posts as “live ammunition”.
Sitton claimed it was a joke and part of his “dark humor”.
Winston B. Sitton of Sitton & Associates in Nashville, Tennessee, suspended his license from the state’s Supreme Court after advising a woman on Facebook in 2017 about how to kill and get away with her husband
Pictured judge Holly Kirby suspended his license for one year, three more on parole, and called the case a “cautionary story” for lawyers on social media
Justice Kirby said Sitton classified the profession as “corrupt” and “false defense” there.
The Tennessee Supreme Court in Nashville overturned an earlier decision by the Board of Professional Responsibility suspending Sitton’s license for 60 days, stating the punishment was not severe enough
Sitton’s law firm, Sitton & Associates, is based in Nashville, Tennessee (pictured) but claims to be licensed in New York and Maryland as well
Sitton’s comments came to light in recent months after screenshots of the conversation were sent to the Board of Professional Responsibility, which referred the matter to the state’s Supreme Court, as reported by The Tennesseean.
In the posts, the unidentified woman asked for advice on keeping a gun in her car, claiming that her ex-husband and her son’s father were abusive.
Sitton, founder of Sitton & Associates and a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, wrote in response: “Even with the revised constitution of your constitution, the lock doctrine is a far more secure basis for the use of lethal force,” read documents filed in court .
Sitton, who claims to be a member of the Tennessee, New York and Maryland bar associations on online profiles, added, “As a lawyer, I advise you to think about it if you are remotely serious. Their defense is that you are afraid for your life – revenge or premeditation of any kind will be used against you in court. ‘
The woman’s post was later deleted, but not before her ex saw the comments and took screenshots that he handed over to Shelby County’s Attorney General Amy Weirich, who alerted the Board of Professional Responsibility.
The comments came to light after the woman’s ex-partner took screenshots of the conversation and forwarded them to Shelby County’s Attorney General Amy Weirich, who forwarded them to the Board of Professional Responsibility
Sitton posted a response to the ruling on his law firm’s Facebook page, claiming he challenged the finding
The Sitton Law Firm’s Facebook page appears to have a statue of Confederate Civil War Leader and later President Andrew Jackson pictured in Jackson Square, New Orleans. The statue is one of many in the United States that activists want to remove from public spaces due to its association with slavery and racism
Sitton told the board that he did not apologize and that the post was part of his “dark humor”.
The board recommended that Sitton’s license be suspended for 60 days, but the matter was considered by the Tennessee Supreme Court, which found the lawsuit too lenient.
Judge Holly Kirby, in her majority opinion on January 22nd, wrote: “Our rules do not allow lawyers to give advice on how to commit crimes with impunity. Lawyers who choose to post on social media need to realize that they are handling live ammunition. this requires care and judgment. ‘
She added, “The social media posts increased the public awareness that the role of a lawyer is to create fake defenses. They projected a public image of the corruption of the judicial process. This case is a cautionary story about the ethical issues lawyers can face on social media. ‘
Sitton’s license was suspended for four years, one year for active suspension and the remainder for parole.
Following the initial ruling by the Board of Professional Responsibility, Sitton wrote on Facebook on January 1 that he had instructed the woman to use a mace or taser to protect herself from a stalker, her son’s father, who was under a warrant was issued after he brutally beat her in a public restaurant. ‘
He added that he “directed her to reserve lethal force as a last resort in her home”.
Sitton continued, “If the board tried to shame me, they failed. I stand proudly for judicial reform, the first right to amend political speech and our second right to amend self-defense. In nearly thirty years as a lawyer, I have never been exposed to public criticism for misconduct in any jurisdiction [sic] in which I was admitted to the bar. ‘
Sitton’s license was previously suspended in August 2018 for non-payment of business taxes according to court records.
He has not yet applied for reinstatement, but must first be trained in ethical social media practices.
The full statement by Winston B. Sitton
He wrote on Facebook on Jan. 23 following the Tennessee Supreme Court ruling:
Below is a link to a Tennessee Supreme Court statement where the court found one particular comment I posted on Facebook in 2017, but which is not considered a criminal offense or a violation of any existing professional rule (without the vague Behavior That Is Unexpected) The language found in Section 8.4) was “detrimental to the administration of justice” and deserves a one-year suspension of my legal license, followed by three years probation.
I relentlessly deny finding that mine is gratuitous [sic] One comment offered to an abused woman who was threatened, abused and molested by her son’s father was legal advice regarding the commission of a crime or a violation of my legal obligations as a citizen or a lawyer.
Such a statement is both irrational, since the offensive communication was published clearly and without attempting to cover up, and incompatible with the undisputed one [sic] Facts that have been presented as evidence as the comment was made in the context of the same paragraph in which I strongly advised the lady NOT to carry a gun in her car for fear of harming herself or others, but her encourage the use of less lethal forms of protection such as maces and tasers.
Furthermore, no malice or improper intent was identified, nor was there any motive as to why a seasoned attorney with nearly 30 years of experience would have risked his Caeer [sic] this way for someone he has never met, never spoken to, or never notified by email or message outside of the public jokes on Facebook’s open pages. ‘