To Friend or Not to Friend . . .

To Friend or Not to Friend . . .

“Where the presiding judge in a criminal case has accepted the prosecutor assigned to the case as a Facebook “friend,” would a reasonably prudent person fear that he could not get a fair and impartial trial, so that the defendant’s motion for disqualification should be granted?”

That is the question that has been certified and sent to the Florida Supreme Court in Pierre Domville v. State of Florida.

Last September, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal quashed the trial court’s order denying disqualification of Broward County Circuit Judge Andrew Siegel due to his Facebook friendship with the prosecutor in the case against Pierre Domville. The Fourth DCA has denied a motion for rehearing, but has granted the request to certify the question to the Florida Supreme Court to issue a definitive legal ruling on whether judges can be Facebook friends with prosecutors that try cases before them. A 2009 Florida Supreme Court Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee Opinion found that Judges should not be Facebook friends with lawyers that may appear before them because of the appearance of impropriety. However, some states, such as Ohio, find social media friendships permissible as long as a pending case is not discussed. Florida judges and lawyers are in friendly disagreement as to the appropriate answer to the question, so it will be interesting to see whether the Florida Supreme Court elects to resolve the friendship debate.