ABA: Judges, do you really need to post that vacation photo?

March 1, 2013
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The American Bar Association doesn’t want to stop judges from using social media, but it wants them to think before “friending” someone online or “liking” someone’s Facebook status.

The ABA issued Formal Opinion 462 last week encouraging judges to remember their duties under the Model Code of Judicial Conduct when using social media like Twitter, Facebook, and the like. The bar association isn’t discouraging judges from using social media, but wants them to treat it like they would in-person interactions.

That includes disclosing if any relationships established through social media – for example, being “friends” with an attorney on Facebook who appears in his or her court – and whether that online connection requires a recusal.

“Because of the open and casual nature of ESM (electronic social media) communication, a judge will seldom have an affirmative duty to disclose an ESM connection,” the opinion says. But, it goes on to say that, “A judge should disclose on the record information the judge believes the parties or their lawyers might reasonably consider relevant to a possible motion for disqualification even if the judge believes there is no basis for the disqualification.”

“However, nothing requires a judge to search all of the judge’s ESM connections if a judge does not have specific knowledge of an ESM connection that rises to the level of an actual or perceived problematic relationship with any individual.”

The opinion also warns against “liking” certain groups or status online, making certain comments or posting pictures that could be considered in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct.  As most people (hopefully) know, anything you post online will likely be there forever, even if you think you’ve deleted it.

The ABA also discusses using social media for campaigning and fundraising.

You can read the full opinion on the ABA’s website.



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