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.
January 30, 2014 at 3:41 PM EST