Facebook has over 1 billion active users. It is the third most popular website in the world, behind only Google and Youtube. With so many people on the social media platform, nearly everyone around has an account — including attorneys and judges. A friendship between a judge and an attorney can disqualify the judge from presiding over a case, but does that include being ‘friends’ on Facebook? That is exactly the question that the Florida Supreme Court set out to decide. With a divided decision (4-3), the majority ruled that a Facebook friendship with an attorney is not a legally sufficient basis to disqualify the judge from that attorney’s case. “The majority concluded that a judge and attorney being Facebook friends does not mean there is a ‘close or intimate’ relationship that might give rise to a need for the judge to step off the case” source.
Opponents of the decision argue that allowing this sort of relationship allows for a gray area, and that proving there is an intimate relationship between a judge an attorney will be harder to prove as a result of the ruling. Justice Jorge Labarga went as far as to urge judges not to participate on Facebook at all.
Dallas trial lawyer and social media expert, John Browning argues that judges need to have a presence on social media to allow more accessibility to the communities they serve.
No matter how you feel about this issue, don’t be surprised to see increased social media activity from judges and lawyers alike, resulting from this ruling. For more articles like this, be sure to check out Beltz & Beltz’s blog section. There, you can get a lot of information on how laws in Florida are affecting you and advice on steps to take when you find yourself in a personal injury situation.