To Friend, or Not to Friend: That is the (Judge's) Question

On May 28, 2013, the New York Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics issued an opinion stating "that the mere status of being a 'Facebook friend,' without more, is an insufficient basis to require recusal." (Emphasis in original). The sole act of friending an individual on Facebook does not create an appearance of impropriety, nor does it allow the questioning of a judge's impartiality.

The unknown justice inquired if recusal is necessary in a criminal matter in which he or she is Facebook friends with the parents or guardians of certain minors allegedly affected by the defendant's conduct. The justice indicated that the parents are mere acquaintances and that he or she can be fair and impartial.

The Committee cited previous opinions finding that there is nothing inherently inappropriate about a judge making use of a social network. Because interpersonal relationships are unique and fact-dependent, judges must ultimately determine the nature of their relationships.

Various judicial advisory committees have weighed in on judges' use of social media, with each reaching slightly different results.

In 2011, the Oklahoma Judicial Ethics Advisory Panel issued one of the most restrictive opinions, categorically prohibiting social media "friendships" between judges and court staff, law enforcement officers, social workers, attorneys, and others who may appear in the judge's court.

Several months ago, an opinion by the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility provided judges with a great deal of latitude in their online personas. While judges should disclose information believed to be reasonably relevant to a possible motion for disqualification, the mere fact than an online relationship exists is not automatically grounds for recusal. For example, a judge might disclose a social media connection with a party, lawyer, or witness, but state "that the judge believes the connection has not resulted in a relationshop requiring disqualification." Judges must take care, however, not to publicly endorse candidates for public office by "liking" online content.

For more information, see:


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.

© Pillsbury’s Social Media & Games Law Blog | Attorney Advertising

Written by:


Pillsbury’s Social Media & Games Law Blog on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:

Sign up to create your digest using LinkedIn*

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.

Already signed up? Log in here

*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.