Judge Disqualified After Sending Divorce Litigant Facebook Friend Request
In the Chase divorce, the wife received an ex parte communication from Judge Linda Schoonover in the form of a friend request on Facebook. The wife did not take the bait, conferred with her attorney, and ignored the request.
In the subsequent judgment of divorce, the wife took great offense to the manner in which Judge Schoonover decided the case, complaining that she was apportioned with too much marital debt. When the family court judge denied the inevitable motion to recuse herself from the divorce proceeding, an appeal followed resulting in the afore-linked decision.
In disqualifying the family court judge, the Florida appellate court was troubled by the judge's attempt to reach out to a litigant in a pending case in a jurisdiction where judges are prohibited even from "friending" attorneys involved in the judge's caseload. The appellate court held:
The trial judge's efforts to initiate ex parte communication to a litigant is prohibited by the Code of Judicial Conduct and has the ability to undermine the confidence in a judge's neutrality. The appearance of partiality must be avoided. It is incumbent upon judges to place boundaries on their conduct in order to avoid situations such as the one presented in this case.We here at the Law Blogger think that this is a pretty darn good idea. In the past few years in Michigan, this blog has detailed many of the transgressions those elected to the judiciary have made through the social media.
Quite simply, judges must rise above the urge to participate in social media. Perhaps a judge can lurk on social media sites, but active engagement is probably not the best idea.