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Lawyers can’t be Facebook friends of judges in Florida

Just how friendly judges can be with the lawyers who appear before them has always been a difficult ethical question.
Facebook and other social media don’t make it any less difficult, as an opinion by the Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee illustrates.
A majority of the committee finds that a judge may not add “lawyers who may appear before the judge as ‘friends’ on a social networking site, and permit such lawyers to add the judge as their ‘friend.’ ”
Such a designation “reasonably conveys to others the impression that these lawyer friends ‘friends’ are in a special position to influence the judge,” the majority said. The minority concluded that the special context of social networking makes it unreasonable to impute special influence from what is nothing more than acknowledgement that the judge and lawyer know each other.
The committee also delves into social networking pages for political purposes and whether lawyers can be “fans” of judicial candidates. In Florida, they can, so long as the judge has nothing to say about those who choose to call themselves fans. Happily, in Virginia, judges need not concern themselves about elections – or campaigning for one.
The New York Times has an article on the opinion and a link to it.
By Alan Cooper

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