Mindful Ethics:
Professional Responsibility for
Lawyers in the Digital Age


Class Eleven
November 7, 2017
To Friend or Not to Friend: Who’s to Judge?


It has been six years since the publicity surrounding Mindy’s blog about Judge Ono. The incident created so much publicity that Mindy became a local hero. With a great reputation as a criminal defense lawyer and the backing of the defense bar,  Mindy is encouraged to become a circuit court judge. Judge Ono is running for re-election and Mindy decides to run against him. While the public does not appreciate the significance of the events of six years earlier, the local bar finds the election electrifying. Mindy wins a close race and feels vindicated.

At the time of the election, the Florida has become one of the first states to deem it improper for a judge to be “friends” with lawyers. In response, Mindy stops accepting friends on her Facebook page, which she ramped up when she ran for judge and cuts loose the handful of attorneys who she had initially accepted as “friends.”  

However, she is not sure what to do about her more personal “Mindy Moo” page that does not identify her explicitly. She has been using it for more than five years and it has been a great way for her to keep in touch with close friends. 

Mindy thinks it over and decides to keep it since there is no obvious way for anyone to know it is her or that “Mindy Moo” is a judge.  She is careful not to write anything related to her work.

However, Mindy finds it ridiculous that a judge cannot have friends on Facebook when they clearly have friends in real life.  Moreover, not every jurisdiction has a problem with it. When the ABA chimes in, Mindy becomes so annoyed with Florida's extreme position that she visits a Herald.com blog page discussing the debate and anonymously sets forth her views.

Additionally, Mindy decides to educate the public by posting on her Facebook page a picture from an ongoing trial.

Questions

Please answer concisely, but completely and include references to the applicable Rules of Professional Conduct, Ethics Opinions and the assigned reading.

1. What are the main judicial canons that are implicated when a judge uses social media?

2. Should Mindy and other judges be able to maintain Facebook friendships and LinkedIn connections? Why or why not?

3. Do you think that judges should use of social media to educate the public and enhance the reputation of our justice system?