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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Judge Disqualified for Being "Facebook" Friend of Prosecutor

A criminal defendant filed a motion to disqualify the trial judge in his case because the judge was a Facebook "friend" of the prosecutor handling his case.  The trial judge denied the motion, and the individual appealed the ruling.  The appellate court reversed in Domville v. State of Florida, No. 4D12-556 (September 5, 2012).

The appellate court first looked to an opinion of the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee that held that the Florida code of judicial conduct precludes a judge from (1) adding lawyers who appear before the judge as "friends" on social media sites and (1) allowing lawyers to add the judge as their friend.  The rationale for the ban is that by adding or allowing the "friending" activity, the judge has conveyed the impression that the lawyer "friend" is in a special position to influence the judge.  Moreover, a judge's activity on social media sites could undermine confidence in the judge's neutrality.  Applying the ethics opinion to the case at hand, the appellate court determined that Domville's motion to disqualify was well-founded because it raised sufficient facts to "prompt a reasonably prudent person to fear that he could not get a fair and impartial trial." 

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


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