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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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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