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A Times Editorial

Judges, lawyers can't be 'friends'

Heads up, Florida lawyers: If your friends on Facebook are declining, don't take it personally. Judges have been advised not to accept lawyers as "friends'' on their Facebook pages and not to ask lawyers to add them as "friends.'' Somebody might get the wrong idea.

Without so much as a tweet or a text, the state's Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee released an opinion last month that Facebook friending between judges and lawyers just isn't good. After all, other Facebook users could see who is friends with whom and conclude that a particular lawyer has an advantage in a particular judge's courtroom. This, of course, would violate Canon 2B: " . . . nor shall a judge convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a position to influence the judge.''

To which a Facebook friend may comment: OMG. or LOL. Or just a quick Ha!Ha!

The advisory committee's majority apparently believes that a Facebook "friend" actually is a friend and that the term implies a warm, old-fashioned relationship. Only it isn't uncommon for Facebook users to have hundreds of "friends," including many they have never spoken to or met. As a minority — and perhaps younger or more Internet savvy — of the committee argued, listing a lawyer's name as a judge's Facebook friend hardly suggests that lawyer is in a special position to influence the judge in the courtroom.

At least judges don't have to give up their Facebook pages. The advisory committee says they still can have Facebook friends who aren't lawyers and ones who are lawyers who don't practice in their court.

The advisory opinion is silent about whether judges should use Twitter, another social networking tool enabling users to send short messages to their followers. We can guess the answer in less than 140 characters.

Judges, lawyers can't be 'friends' 12/13/09 [Last modified: Sunday, December 13, 2009 9:53pm]
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