Judges and Social Media

Recently, several states and the ABA have been reviewing and discussing the limits to which lawyers may use social media … LinkedIn, Facebook, et al … without violating the restrictions on advertising.

Now, there seems to be a similar but more mild review and reaction to judges using social media. I’m somewhat surprised that lawyers are being restricted but judges are not in their use of social media. For example, Ohio, Kentucky, New York and South Carolina similarly answered the friend question … Judges can befriend attorneys and others. The warning, if one were to call it that, is that judges need to tread carefully…Not to befriend lawyers and others who are to appear in their court.

But, how do you know that someone you "friend" today won’t be a party or lawyer in your court tomorrow? While I normally do not concur with the Florida restrictions on lawyer advertising, I am more inclined to support their somewhat more stringent approach in this area. In 2009, the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee for the Florida Supreme Court decided that judges could not add lawyers who appear before them as friends online. Personally, I don’t think this restriction goes far enough.

As I’ve noted in a previous post, judges must "not only be chaste, they must also appear to be chaste." (With due apologies to the Bard.) Appearances of appropriate judicial conduct is essential. And judges’ participation in social media networks violates the appearance of impartiality.

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