Last week’s Chace v. Loisel (Fla. Ct. App. [5th Dist.] Jan. 24, 2014) talks about whether judges should be recused simply because they are Facebook friends with a lawyer:
At the same time, even the court in Chace holds that a judge’s “friending” a litigant, while the litigant’s case is pending, is grounds for recusal:
In our view, the “friending” of a party in a pending case raises far more concern than a judge’s Facebook friendship with a lawyer…. The trial judge’s efforts to initiate ex parte communications with a litigant [i.e., communications without the presence of the other party] 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.Because Petitioner has alleged facts that would create in a reasonably prudent person a well-founded fear of not receiving a fair and impartial trial, we quash the order denying the motion to disqualify and remand to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. We trust that the issuance of a formal writ will be unnecessary.
Interestingly, in this case the objector was a litigant whom the judge “friended,” but who refused the “friend” request. The litigant argued that the judge had retaliated against her because of her un”friend”liness, and that the judge’s conduct created enough of “a well-founded fear of not receiving a fair and impartial trial” to “a reasonably prudent person” that the judge should be disqualified. The court of appeals in Chace agreed.