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Friday, September 7, 2012
by Michael Loatman
Florida judges who use Facebook or
similar social networking sites may want to consider re-examining
their online friends.
The Florida District Court of
Appeal, Fourth District, Sept. 5 held that a judge had to
disqualify himself from a trial in which he was a Facebook friend
of the assigned prosecutor (Domville v. Florida, Fla.
Dist. Ct. App., No. 4D12-556, 9/5/12).
The court cited favorably a November
2009 opinion from the state's Judicial Ethics Advisory
Committee that advised judges not to "friend" on social networking
websites those attorneys appearing before their court. The ethics
committee's rationale was that such an act violated Florida Code of
Judicial Conduct Canon 2B by implying that a friended attorney is
"in a special position to influence the judge."
"Judges must be vigilant in
monitoring their public conduct so as to avoid situations that will
compromise the appearance of impartiality," the court said. It
added that the rule may limit personal freedom, but judges
frequently are called upon to accept "freely and willingly"
restrictions that "might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary
Cynthia Gray, director of the
American Judicature Society's Center for Judicial Ethics, recently
told BNA that state ethics boards in Massachusetts and Oklahoma
joined Florida's strict rule. In contrast, Gray explained,
Kentucky, Maryland, New York, Ohio, and South Carolina ethical
boards said that social networking friendships between judges and
attorneys that have real world social relationships were
Copyright 2012, The Bureau of
National Affairs, Inc.
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