A normal friendship between a judge and an attorney is a common reason for recusal (the process for a judge to quit a case to avoid the influence of bias). A recent Florida Supreme Court decision ruled: a Judge who was “Facebook friends” with an Attorney did not require recusal or disqualification. Most of us don’t need a Supreme Court case to know the difference between real friends and online ones.
The Court was split 4-3 with the majority opinion citing on the lack of “close or intimate” nature of a Facebook “friendship” which did “not create the appearance of impropriety under the applicable code of judicial conduct.”
Dissenting Judges appeared more concerned with the appearance of impropriety, stating “a judge’s involvement with social media is fraught with risk that could undermine confidence in the judge’s ability to be a neutral arbiter.”
Both sides urged judges to stay off Facebook to avoid “inviting problems.” The American Bar Association has advised Judges to “disclose social media relationships prior to, or at the initial appearance of the person before the court.”
This article was originally published in the Lowell Sun and is for informational purposes only and not to be relied on as legal advice, in any manner.