Pittsburgh lawyer aims outburst at top court, misfires

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A Pittsburgh-based partner at law firm Reed Smith lost his cool on Twitter last week, and lashed out at an account he thought represented the Supreme Court but was in fact a well-established blog.

The Twitter account has since been deleted and the law firm issued a statement that the matter is being reviewed internally.

Steven M. Regan, a commercial real estate attorney, created an Oct. 15 post on the micro-blogging site via his Twitter handle SteveRegan4. The comment directed to SCOTUSblog said, "Don't screw up this like [the Affordable Care Act]. No such thing as greenhouse gas. Carbon is necessary for life."

The tweet was apparently in response to a SCOTUSblog story about the high court's decision to hear a case on the Environmental Protection Agency's regulation of greenhouse gases. The blog, sponsored by Bloomberg Law, covers the U.S. Supreme Court, with coverage of individual cases as well as analysis of Supreme Court nominees and related special projects.

The blog re-tweeted Mr. Regan's comment, adding the question, "Intelligent life?" That prompted Mr. Regan's angry reply, including an expletive, to go "die."

The attorney's Twitter account has since been deleted, but the tweets remain visible on the blog's Twitter feed.

"Steve Regan deeply regrets his actions," Reed Smith spokeswoman Jamie Moss said Friday. "The posting of offensive commentary or language on social media is inappropriate and inconsistent with Reed Smith's social media policy. We are addressing this matter internally."

According to his profile on the Reed Smith website, Mr. Regan has "extensive experience in all aspects of commercial real estate," including advising clients about oil, gas and mineral rights.

While it is an independent journalism site, SCOTUSblog publisher Tom Goldstein said people frequently mistake the blog's Twitter feed as representing the high court.

Mr. Goldstein said while the tone of the blog is serious, its Twitter account can be irreverent when people mistake the blog for the Supreme Court. He estimates they have had 30 or 40 exchanges similar to Mr. Regan's.

"We feel sorry for the lawyer and Reed Smith, which is a great firm, because it seems like an isolated thoughtless moment that was out of character," Mr. Goldstein said.

Within the federal government, there are several "verified" Twitter accounts for public officials, which are usually manned by staffers and connect directly with the public. But while there are several Twitter accounts that tweet links to Supreme Court decisions, none appears to be officially affiliated with the high court itself.

One of the benefits of Twitter is its wide reach. In an Oct. 3 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the San Francisco-based company claimed it has 200 million monthly active users, and over 300 billion tweets since its launch in 2006.

But Twitter and other social media sites can keep alive a faux pas long after the incident occurs.

SCOTUSblog's retweet of Mr. Regan's angry comment included the advice: "Being an expert climatologist / real-estate attorney is very stressful. Breathe."


Kim Lyons: klyons@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1241 or on Twitter @SocialKimly.

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