This was the ruling of an appeals court deciding whether or not a Miami judge needed to recuse herself from a case involving an attorney who was her friend on Facebook.
The 10-page opinion, filed on August 23, states:
“Electronic social media is evolving at an exponential rate,” Third District Court of Appeal Judge Thomas Logue wrote in the unanimous opinion. “Acceptance as a Facebook ‘friend’ may well once have given the impression of close friendship and affiliation. Currently, however, the degree of intimacy among Facebook ‘friends’ varies greatly.”
The ruling also talks about the algorithms and data mining on Facebook that leads to the "people you may know" feature.
This is what causes most of the “friendships” that are in actuality loose acquaintances.
The decision is welcome news to judges throughout Miami.
New York University law professor Stephen Gillers discussed the ruling with the Miami Herald.
“This decision brings much needed fresh air to an issue that has led some lawyers and judges greatly to overreact. The word “friend” has many meanings,” said Gillers. “Recusal is justified only when the friendship is so close that the public would reasonably question whether the judge would be able to rule against the lawyer.”
In the past, judges have been legally allowed to remain on the case if they are considered to have a "mere friendship" with an attorney involved.
However, social media has thrown a wrench in things, and friendships are now defined differently than before.
In fact, many judges are advised to stay off social media altogether in order to remain as impartial as possible.
“My own feeling is that it’s something that can only cause trouble for a judge,” said Bob Jarvis to the Miami Herald, an ethics law professor at Nova Southeastern University. “I don’t see any upside in a judge having a social-media presence.”