Time to Unfriend for Fla. Judges

Ethics committee recommends judges not be cyber friends with lawyers

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    TK
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    Sunshine State judges are about to get a lot more lonely online after an ethics committee recommended they unfriend from Facebook lawyers who might appear before them.

    Sunshine State judges are about to get a lot more lonely online after an ethics committee recommended they unfriend from Facebook lawyers who might appear before them.

    Worried that being cyber buddies with the advocates might give the appearance of a conflict of interest, Florida's Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee has advised the judges to ditch their friends, according to the New York Times.

    The decision, issued last month, isn't binding, just a recommendation.

    In the majority opinion, it was argued that judges and lawyers being online friends “reasonably conveys to others the impression that these lawyer ‘friends’ are in a special position to influence the judge.”

    The opinion has already garnered criticism from law experts, including ethics expert Stephen Gillers of New York University.

    “In my view, they are being hypersensitive,” Gillers told the Times. “[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.”

    Anyways, as Gillers pointed out, if there appears to be any sort of impropriety, a lawyer can try to get a judge disqualified from a case.

    Earlier this year, a judge in North Carolina was reprimanded for friending a defendant's attorney in a child custody dispute.

    And just last week, a Facebook scuttlebutt arose at the arraignment of Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones, this time between judge and defendant.

    Spence-Jones, accused of misusing $50,000 worth of county funds, had apparently friended Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Yvonne Colodny.

    Judge Colodny said she dropped Spence-Jones after her arrest.