The Public Reprimand for Laypeople

The Pillory and Stocks – a common form of public shaming punishment until the 1800s.

When attorneys commit an ethical violation, there are various forms of discipline, from a non-public letter of admonishment to disbarment.  One form of discipline is a public reprimand, which is performed in open court.

With the growth of social media, a misstep in one’s private life, from an off color joke to an embarrassing picture, can become a public shaming event all over the world.

The New York Times has published a great article by Jon Ronson about this phenomena.  Of great interest is the issue of how the punishment often exceeds, greatly, the perceived “crime.”

The article takes a needed sympathetic view towards some that have been financially, socially and emotionally ruined by social media shaming.  Everything from privately shared off-color jokes, publically shared comments, miscalculated judgments, questionable Halloween costumes, to, in some case, really nothing much at all, have become the target of social media outrage.

A judge in Arkansas offers as an alternative to jail the public shaming of wearing a sign.

As someone who represents attorneys, the analogous situation is the public reprimand.  As someone who represents people who take their public image and professional reputation seriously, I can say with confidence that the public reprimand has a significant deterrent effect and is a feared outcome of the grievance process for most attorneys.

Mr. Ronson’s story also has a fascinating discussion of the history of public shaming as a form of criminal punishment.

I encourage you to read it.

1 Response to “The Public Reprimand for Laypeople”

  1. 1 Douglas Chandler
    February 20, 2015 at 10:14 am

    Nice article!

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