In a 5-2 decision the Florida Supreme Court recently refused to weigh in on the ruling of an appeal court that will set a Florida precedent for how involved a Judge can be on Facebook and other social networking sites. The motion, filed by defendant Pierre Domville, was done in an effort to reverse his conviction after he realized that the trial Judge presiding over his case and the prosecutor were friends on Facebook. Domville stated that his list of friends on the popular networking site “consists of his closest friends and associates, persons whom he could not perceive with anything but favor, loyalty and partiality.” For this reason, he holds that the Judge should have recused himself upon the realization that the prosecutor was an associate of his. No official decision has been handed down from the appeals court on the matter. Nonetheless, legal officials from all across the state are voicing their opinion on the matter of how appropriate it is for Judges to have accounts on such sites to begin with.
Eugene Pettis, the president-elect of the Florida Bar recently stated that on the matter of Judges and their use of social media, they “need some guidance from the court.” Domville’s attorney argued on behalf of his client “He felt he would not be able to get a trial that would not involve some form of prejudice.” Although the State Supreme Court refuses to give the courts opinion on the matter, District Judge Robert Gross has commented saying that Judges “do not have the unfettered social freedom of teenagers.” It can only be assumed that this is alluding to the necessity that Judges place the prestige and responsibility of their position above the draw of status updates and friend requests. Currently, several Judicial ethical committees hold the opinion that it is acceptable for Judges to use such social networks; however, with certain parameters in mind.
As it stands, no such parameters have been solidified. Until such regulations exist, it is safe to say that all legal personal with respect to online social media, ought to conduct themselves judiciously.