Should judges have Twitter or Facebook friends?
We have discussed “friending” on social networking sites before. Some school districts are clamping down on teachers and administrators becoming friends with students. Rules may limit off-campus contact with students to homework assignments or messages strictly relating to school activities.
Judges and lawyers are also taking a close look at e-communication relationships including Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. It is the appearance of any impropriety that must be avoided. What would you think of a lawyer in a case who is in touch with the judge online? Even if the subject of their messages is unrelated to the case, their contact may appear to be a conflict of interest.
In December, 2009, a Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee in Florida took a stand against judges having online friendships with attorneys who appear before them. The Committee said that it “reasonably conveys to others the impression that these lawyer ‘friends’ are in a special position to influence the judge.
Those opposing the recommendation state that judges do not drop out of society when they become judges. There are other ways, they argue, to deal with the appearance of impropriety including disqualification by the judge on a case when a conflict arises. With increasing participation on social networks, the issue will continue to be debated.