Is Facebook "Friending" Grounds for Judicial Recusal?

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Judges are people too, so it's no surprise that they use social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to connect with friends, family and co-workers. But what if their "friends list" includes a juror, witness or party to a case over which they are presiding?

Courts across the country are increasingly being asked to address whether Facebook relationships can taint judicial proceedings and serve as grounds for recusal or even a new trial. As the law surrounding social media continues to evolve, courts are delivering mixed results.

In Clore v. Clore, a divorcing Alabama spouse unsuccessfully argued that the trial judge's social-networking connection to the parties' adult daughter warranted the grant of a new trial and the recusal of the trial judge. The trial court, in explaining his decision to deny the motion, stated, in pertinent part:

"This [Facebook] is a social networking site where the word 'friend' is used [in a way] that doesn't have anything to do with the way before this Facebook.com ever existed — the way we used the word 'friend.'"

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