On Aug. 24, Judge Wade Birdwell of Tarrant County’s 342nd District Court issued an Order Adjudging Contempt of Court and Imposing Sentence of Community Service against Jonathan Gregory Hudson. Earlier, the judge had released Hudson from jury service in a civil suit after learning he had tried to friend on Facebook a litigant in the case, confirms Steve Gordon, a Fort Worth criminal-defense lawyer who represents Hudson. In his contempt order, the judge found 22-year-old Hudson “guilty” of four counts: Contrary to the judge’s instructions, Hudson discussed on Facebook a personal-injury case on which he was serving on a jury panel; contrary to the judge’s instructions, Hudson contacted a litigant in the underlying suit via Facebook and attempted to “friend” the litigant before being released from the jury or jury service; he contacted a litigant via Facebook after being dismissed from the jury but while still on jury service; and contrary to the judge’s instructions, Hudson altered his Facebook page after being dismissed from the jury but while still on jury service. Birdwell required Hudson to serve two days of community service. Gordon says his client didn’t realize at the time he attempted to friend the litigant — a woman who was the defendant in the underlying case — how serious a misstep he was making. Hudson will fulfill his community service obligation by working in the jury services department in Tarrant County, Gordon says. “He’s going to be doing whatever they tell him to do, and he’s going to learn what an imposition this was. This was a big deal, and he now understands that it not only caused an inconvenience to him but to other people and cost taxpayers money,” Gordon says. Scotty MacLean of the MacLean Law Firm in Fort Worth says his client, the plaintiff in the underlying case, was awarded a final judgment of $100,000 on Aug. 1. MacLean feels his client got a fair shake, even though minus Hudson, only 11 jurors, not 12, issued the verdict. Birdwell and Susan Smith of Dallas’ Henderson, Smith, Black & Bryant, who represents the defendant in the underlying suit, each did not return a telephone call seeking comment. In April, the Texas Supreme Court amended Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 226A to require judges to tell prospective jurors to refrain from discussing cases via social networking websites such as Facebook and with anyone through social networks.
-- Miriam Rozen