Same Rules, Different Application: The ABA Formally Opines on Judges Using Social Media

The ABA released Formal Opinion 462 today and joins many of the states that have commented on whether judges should participate in social media.  (See our prior posts here, here, and here.) Consistent with the ABA’s approach to social media and technology generally, the ABA opinion concludes that, subject to the Judicial Canons,  judges may participate in social media and that a social media friend does not necessarily connote a relationship that would result in judicial basis or a need for recusal.

However, judges must be mindful of their obligations to remain impartial and avoid the appearance of impropriety. Thus, the ABA opinion suggests that when confronted with a situation in which an individual with whom the judge shares a social media connection appears before the judge, the judge should evaluate any need for recusal in the same manner as he does when anyone with whom he is personally familiar appears in his courtroom.

Same rules, different application is the message.

“Judicious use of ESM can benefit judges in both their personal and professional lives. As their use of this technology increases, judges can take advantage of its utility and potential as a valuable tool for public outreach. When used with proper care, judges’ use of ESM does not necessarily compromise their duties under the Model Code any more than use of traditional and less public forms of social connection such as U.S. Mail, telephone, email or texting.”