Gavel Grab

Panel: Social Media Can Pose Ethics Challenges for Courts

Navigating the social media while protecting fair and impartial courts grabbed attention from a panel convened at the American Bar Association’s annual meeting in Toronto.

Judge Herbert B. Dixon Jr. of the District of Columbia Superior Court, the event’s keynote speaker, shared with the audience his own  “Judicial Commandments Re Social Media,” according to an ABANow article. Here are two of the commandments that aim at preserving impartial and independent courts:

“A judge should not make comments on a social networking site about any matters pending before the judge — not to a party, not to a counsel for a party, not to anyone.”

“A judge should disqualify himself or herself from a proceeding when the judge’s social networking relationship with a lawyer creates bias or prejudice concerning the lawyer or party.”

The article noted that Judge Dixon questioned Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’ recent behavior when the justice said during oral arguments that he had researched an issue in the case from the Internet.

When judges attending the session were asked to stand up if they held Facebook accounts, a “substantial majority” stood.

The panel session was entitled, “‘Friend’ is Now a Verb: Judicial Ethics and the New Social Media.”

An ABA Journal article about the session was headlined, “Panelists: Judges Should Watch Who They ‘Friend’ on Social Media and What Friends Post About them.”

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