Pervasiveness of Social Media: Facebook “likes” May Pose Ethical Dilemmas for Judges

In a recently-released opinion, the Committee on Judicial Ethics was called upon to define the ethical implications and permissible parameters of a Judge’s use of the ubiquitous social networking site Facebook.  The Committee stressed that all activities on the site must be consistent with Judicial Ethics. 

It noted that there are no bright-line prohibitions and that a Judge is permitted to “post” on their wall and may also “like” other people’s posts.  However, the substance of these activities must be in line with Judicial Ethics.  For example, a judge needs to be careful in what “Facebook groups” he subscribes to or other actions on the site that may be construed as a conflict of interest.

Notably, the Committee indicated that the Code of Judicial Ethics prohibits a judge from “friending” any attorneys that may appear before them.  It specifically stated:

“in terms of a bright-line test, judges may only ‘friend’ attorneys as to whom they would recuse themselves when those attorneys appeared before them.”

The Committee reached the conclusion that “friending” attorneys on social networking sites creates the impression that those attorneys are in a special position to influence the judge, even if those Facebook “friends” may just be acquaintances. 

For the full opinion, click here.

Wassem Amin