Judges, Lawyers Can Never Be Facebook Friends in Florida
Facebook and the workplace have never been exactly the best of buddies. Facebook/co-worker protocol deemed "acceptable" varies widely by occupation or sector. But for lawyers and judges in Florida, the choice is simple: Facebook's one thing, the courtroom's another. And nary the twain shall meet.
The New York Times reports Florida's Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee recently published an opinion barring any virtual "friendship" between judges and lawyers. In the committee's view, Facebook friendship between the two suggests a conflict of interest, "reasonably convey[ing] to others the impression that these lawyer 'friends' are in a special position to influence the judge." The minority opinion countered that Facebook friendship generally suggests that two people are mere acquaintances, not outright BFFs. The majority of the committee members felt that leaving this area shaded gray would make the courts vulnerable to accusations of impropriety. Judge T. Michael Jones, a committee member himself, reiterated that the ruling was just advisory, as a recommendation, not a requirement. And lawyers worried about dwindling friend lists needn't worry; brown-nosing barristers can still become "fans" of judges on Facebook.
Stephen Gillers, legal expert at NYU, thinks the decision was "hypersensitive," and posited that the ruling was the direct result of a generational gap that clouded the committee's understanding of Facebook friendship. We agree. As Gillers points out, judges don't "drop out of society when they become judges. The people who were their friends before they went on the bench remained their friends, and many of them were lawyers." So if anything, wouldn't the Florida legal system be more transparent if judiciary Facebook friendship was permitted? Instead of banning Facebook in a lame attempt to mask any behind-the-bench "friendships," Florida courts should face the reality of social networking's prevalence, and the fact that, hey, they all went to law school together. [From: The New York Times]