More on Social Media and Judicial Ethics

This is an interesting addendum to the ABA session ““Friend” Is Now a Verb: Judicial Ethics and the New Social Media“. In the Financial Post‘s Legal Post section from August 2nd, Mitch Kowalski notes Oklahoma’s Judicial Ethics Advisory Panel released an opinion on judges and social media in that state on July 6, 2011. The Oklahoma State Courts Network (OSCN.net) has the full Judicial Ethics Opinion 2011-3.

From the opinion:

¶1 Questions: 1. May a Judge hold an internet social account, such as Facebook, Twitter, or Linkedin without violating the Code of Judicial Conduct?

¶2 2. May a Judge who owns an internet based social media account add court staff, law enforcement officers, social workers, attorneys and others who may appear in his or her court as “friends” on the account?

¶3 Answers: Question 1 – Yes, with restrictions.

¶4 Question 2 – No.

The opinion goes on to explain this position, and concludes:

¶10 To those who would argue that this position is too restrictive of the rights and privileges of the Judge, we echo the Kentucky opinion JE 119, wherein it is stated “A Judge must accept restrictions on the Judge’s conduct that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen and should do so freely and willingly.”

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Comments

  1. This is very interesting. Does anyone know of if a similar opinion has been released in any Canadian jurisdiction?

  2. No – it would be up to the Canadian Judicial Conference, which has not issued anything similar.

    Provincial bodies would likely wait for the CJC lead.

  3. Related opinions from other US jurisdictions have been out for a while.
    New York Judicial Ethics Committee (Opinion 08-176, January 2009). NY reasoned that since judges socialize in person there is nothing otherwise unethical about socializing through technology.

    South Carolina Advisory Committee on Standards of Judicial Conduct (Opinion 17-2009, October 2009). Here a magistrate judge was allowed to have law enforcement “friends” on facebook, so long as no discussion was had relating to judicial position. A complete separation is impossible. A judge should not become isolated from the community in which he or she lives.

    Florida Supreme Court Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee (Opinion 2009-20, November 2009). A judge may not add as “friends” lawyers who appear before them. A judge shall not convey the impression that the judge’s social networking friends are in a special position that threatens the integrity of the judiciary.

    Ethics Committee of the Kentucky Judiciary (Opinion JE-119, January 2010). While the nomenclature of “friend” may be used in social networks, the view of the Kentucky Committee was that such a listing, by itself, does not reasonably convey to others an impression that such persons are in a special position to influence the judge.