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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Judges Cautioned Not to "Friend" Parties in Pending Cases

We have previously reported on the potential ethical minefield for judges on social media.  A Florida appellate court recently addressed that issue in Chace v. Loisel, decided on January 24, 2014.  In that case, a party filed a motion to disqualify the judge presiding over her divorce case after the judge sent her a "friend" request via Facebook. The judge denied the motion, and she appealed claiming that the Judge retaliated against her by awarding a "disproportionately excessive alimony award" to her spouse.  

The appellate court reversed the trial court, finding that a judge's ex parte communication with a party is a legally sufficient claim for disqualification. In this case, the judge's "friend" request placed the party in a difficult place of either engaging in improper ex parte communications or risk offending the Judge by not accepting the "friend" request.  

In conclusion, the appellate court cautioned judges to avoid situations such as this one that might undermine the public's confidence in a judge's neutrality.

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