Monday, April 29, 2019

Can Judges Be “Friends” on Social Media?

Last week on, Patricia Hughes posted an article entitled Should Judges Be Tweeps and “Friends”? that looks at some of the risks judges can face when they start using social media like Twitter or Facebook.

It not only looks at the issue of perceived bias on the part of judges themselves, but it also raises an issue I had not thought of: the use of social media by judges’ families, for example where a family member may comment on a case or even be "friends" with a lawyer involved in a case before the judge.

The article makes reference to a number of reflections from the UK and Australia.

In conclusion, she writes:
"The use of social media should be an element in new judges’ education, as early as possible, as well as for existing judges. Guidelines from the CJC [Canadian Judicial Council] that recognize that judges may use social media in their professional capacity, as well as personally, but make clear the risks and limitations of use, are crucial. For example, if judges do use social media, they should not identify themselves as judges; they should consider very carefully whether it is appropriate to identify lawyers as “friends”; they need to appreciate fully issues around privacy; they need to acknowledge that lawyers have an obligation, even if not explicitly identified, to use what they learn on social media in representing their client; they should be aware that social media can intrude in their private life to haunt them in their professional life; they should discuss with their families how their use of social media might have repercussions; and so on. The guidelines should indicate the kinds of posts that are acceptable and those that are not. Individual courts may also establish their own codes for accessing or using social media. And generally, the best guideline of all (after the training session has occurred, and definitely before then) may be: if you’re not sure, don’t do it."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:49 pm


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