Judge’s Response to Facebook Message Showed No Bias, According to Appeals Court


A judge in Texas appears to have handled an ethics dilemma on Facebook in textbook fashion. The judge was presiding over a criminal case involving defendant William Scott Youkers, who was sentenced to eight years in prison for assaulting his girlfriend. Youkers moved for a new trial on the ground that the judge’s Facebook friendship with the girlfriend’s father created both actual and apparent bias. According to Youkers, the judge failed to disclose a private Facebook message he received from the father that – ironically – had sought leniency for Youkers.

This article discusses why the court rejected Youkers' application and how the judge's conduct serves as a great example of how judges - and lawyers - can extricate themselves from thorny ethical dilemmas on social media.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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