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The Judge Is Not My Facebook Friend Any More

Posted by Eric Parzianello on February 12, 2010

The Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee of the Florida Supreme Court recently issued an opinion prohibiting judges from listing lawyers who may appear before the judge as “friends” on a judge’s social networking pages, including Facebook. The Committee believed that such a listing “reasonably conveys to others the impression that these lawyer ‘friends’ are in a special position to influence the judge.”

The Committee stated that the issue “is not whether the lawyer actually is in a position to influence the judge, but instead whether the . . . identification of the lawyer as a ‘friend’ on the social networking site, conveys the impression that the lawyer is in a position to influence the judge. The Committee [concluded] that such identification in a public forum of a lawyer who may appear before the judge does convey this impression and therefore is not permitted.”

Fortunately, for Facebooking judges, the opinion does not prohibit the judges from having any friends: the Committee specifically clarified that the “opinion should not be interpreted to mean that [judges are] prohibited from identifying any person as a ‘friend’ on a social networking site.”

Also, Florida judges remain free to establish a Facebook Fan Page for their campaign and allow lawyers who may practice before the judge to become “fans”. The Committee distinguished this Facebook association because the judge cannot accept or reject the lawyer becoming a “fan”. Really?

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