Is the Florida Bar Taking Facebook Friendship Too Seriously?

[Post by Venkat]

The Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee issued an (advisory) opinion [link] which included the following question and answer:

[May] a judge may add lawyers who may appear before the judge as “friends” on a social networking site, and permit such lawyers to add the judge as their “friend.”


[h/t WSJ Law Blog] I thought this conclusion was off base, even after you discount for the fact that Florida has some wacky rules governing advertising by lawyers. My question to the advisory committee is whether this means that it’s now inappropriate for a judge to have lunch with a lawyer friend, or engage in email banter with lawyer friends? Is attending the same party now off limits? I assume these actions would still be viewed as appropriate, given that lawyers and judges interact socially (and publicly) all the time. What’s so special about Facebook friendship? In the end, the advisory committee should heed the words of one district court

[T]he Court assigns no significance to the Facebook “friends” reference. Facebook reportedly has more than 200 million active users, and the average user has 120 “friends” on the site. . . . Indeed, “friendships” on Facebook may be as fleeting as the flick of a delete button.

Quigley Corp. v. Karkus, No. 09-1725, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41296, at *16, n.3 (E.D. Pa. May 19, 2009) (mentioned here and here). With this said, judges and lawyers may want to be careful (driven by common sense), and in any event, minimize their Facebook friending activity while a case is ongoing. [See Techdirt’s discussion of a judge-lawyer Facebook friending snafu here.]

[Added: see additional coverage in Silicon Alley’s Business Insider: “Florida Judges May not Friend Local Lawyers on Facebook“.]