I have to defriend Judge Alfred E. Neumann. He cannot be my friend anymore.
The AP is reporting today that the state’s Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee has ruled that Florida's judges and lawyers should no longer "friend" each other on Facebook. This ruling is so stupid it is funny. The committee ruled Nov. 17 that online "friendships" could create the impression that lawyers are in a special position to influence their judge friends.
Right, because Jay Hurley finds out I went fishing on Saturday, I am going to catch a break on a bond if I come before him on Monday with an accused drug trafficker? This, pray tell, is what our ethics committee is worried about? More so than accusations like judges were getting kickbacks from lawyers for special PD appointments?
"Although Facebook has been used as an example in this opinion, the holding of the opinion would apply to any social networking site which requires the member of the site to approve the listing of a 'friend' or contact on the member's site," the opinion said.
A few on the committee dissented, saying judges should be allowed to have Facebook friends because those relationships are more like "a contact or acquaintance."
Although only the Florida Supreme Court can actually mandate what judges can do, most will likely follow the ruling out of an abundance of caution, said Craig Waters, spokesman for the Florida Supreme Court. Well, let me know if anyone wants to challenge this ludicrous decision. I think the crossovers on Facebook are remarkable. Heck, I have defendants and judges as friends. You think they are chatting about the case online? You think they even know who each other is? Heck, I have friends with 3500 friends. I gave up even trying to figure out who all my friends are.
Judge Thomas McGrady, the chief of the sixth judicial circuit in Pinellas County, said he understands why the committee came to its conclusion: Judges need to appear impartial.
"We as judges can still be good judges and still have friends. Part of our job is to not let that friendship interfere in any way with our decisions," he said. "But others in the public who see judges listing a lawyer as a friend on facebook, they may think that because they are your friend, they will be treated differently." Grow up. There are a lot more serious things to worry about.
McGrady, who is sending a copy of the ruling to the 69 judges in his circuit, said this potential conflict of interest is why he doesn't have a Facebook page. Either that or he does not how to use a computer.