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Monday, January 27, 2014

Judge Disqualified After Sending Divorce Litigant Facebook Friend Request

A Florida judge has been disqualified from remaining on a case in her family court docket after sending a party in a pending divorce a friend request on Facebook.  According to the appellate panel that reviewed the matter in Chase v Loisel, the family court judge's social media activity has led to her disqualification in other cases.

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.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please - this judge has had a child custody case pending FOR YEARS that she continues and continues despite evidence proving the child should be returned to his mother. SHE KNOWS the GAL is a friend of Grandma's attorney but allows it. She is totally incompetent and should be removed from the bench.

January 30, 2014 at 4:08 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tip of the iceberg for this judge. She needs more media scrutiny.

February 2, 2014 at 7:56 AM 

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