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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Judge Gets Reprimanded for Facebook Posts About Cases

In another installment of "be careful what you post on social media," today's post involves a Minnesota judge who was reprimanded for posting online about his trials.  Here are a couple of examples of his posts:

In August of 2014, he posted on his Facebook page:
My day yesterday in the Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis: . . . Criminal Vehicular Homicide where defendant stoned on Xanax supplemented it w/a lot of booze and then drove wrong way down a freeway colliding w/an innocent citizen driving the right way down the same freeway killing him. . . . and most interesting -- three kidnappings . . . where the three were physically tortured to try and find the drugs.
In July, 2015, he posted the following after the defense counsel had an apparent panic attack and was taken away by ambulance:
Now we are in chaos because defendant has to hire a new lawyer who will most likely want to start over and a very vulnerable woman will have to spend another day on the witness stand. . . . I was so angry that on the way home I stopped to see our District Administrator and told him, “Michael, you are going to have to just listen to me bitch for awhile.” . . . [W]e know the new lawyer (probably quite justifiably) will be asking for another continuance. Terrible day!!!
A complaint was filed against the Judge with the Board on Judicial Standards. After investigation of the complaint, the Board issued a final reprimand, which you can find here. The Board determined that the Judge had violated various judicial rules of conduct, including the requirement that judicial duties take precedence over a judge's personal activities and that a judge be dignified and courteous with litigants, among others. 

The Judge defended his actions by stating that he believed his Facebook posts could only be viewed by his 80 "friends," consisting of family members, friends and members of his church. However, the Board determined that they were, in fact, available to the public. 

Although this case dealt specifically with the judicial rules of conduct, the analysis is a good lesson for everyone about the public nature of social media. Although the Judge thought his posts were only seen by his Facebook friends, they were more widely accessible to the public. Even if the Judge had employed strict privacy settings, that could not protect him against a complaint filed by one of his Facebook "friends" - Social Media 101 says your co-workers are the most likely to rat you out to your supervisor.  

The lesson of the day is a very simple one - be careful what you post about your job on social media.
Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf


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