Judges and Social Media [Pennsylvania Bar Association Civil Litigation Update]

The American Bar Association (ABA) Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility recently issued Formal Opinion 462 – “Judge’s Use of Electronic Social Networking Media.” The Committee stated that while electronic social media (ESM) can be beneficial, its use raises concerns under the ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct.

The requirement underlying a judge’s use of social media is that judges must at all times act in a manner “that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary,” and must “avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.” Against this backdrop, online social networking relationships through ESM raise a number of concerns: (1) some online networks would permit other members to post content onto a judge’s site; (2) it could be argued that a judge participating in a social networking site loses control over the privacy of his or her own communications with others; (3) labels (i.e., “friend”) used by social networking sites often imply a closer personal relationship than actually exists; and (4) social networking relationships are much more public and, therefore, more likely to create an appearance of impropriety.

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Thomas G. Wilkinson, Jr.



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