Facebook Friend Earns Judge a Reprimand

Jason Morris

An interesting twist on the social networking argument.  We have written and spoken extensively about the pitfalls of using social networking sites for background checks.  Well, this is how it is now affecting the legal world.  According to LegalBlogWatch, a Judge in a civil case accepted a “friend” request from one of the lawyers in the case.  This begs a lot of legal questions!

Facebook Friend Earns Judge a Reprimand

Opposing counsel are sitting with the judge in his chambers during a child-custody trial when the lawyer for the husband brings up Facebook. The other lawyer says she is a non-user, but the judge quickly agrees to “friend” the lawyer who is on Facebook. As the trial proceeds, the judge and the lawyer comment about it to each other through their Facebook pages, with the lawyer writing in one post, “I have a wise Judge.”

Hmmm. Wise in the ways of social networking, perhaps, but lacking something in the judicial-ethics department. When the hearing ended and the judge entered his order, the wife’s lawyer found out about their “friendship” and quickly moved for a new trial and for the judge’s disqualification. The judge promptly removed himself from the case and the wife got a new trial.

The socially networked North Carolina judge, B. Carlton Terry Jr., also earned himself a public reprimand from the state’s Judicial Standards Commission. The judge now agrees “that he will not repeat such conduct in the future” and “will promptly read and familiarize himself with the Code of Judicial Conduct.”

Part of the Facebook exchange between the judge and the lawyer involved the weight to be given testimony that one spouse had been unfaithful. During a meeting in chambers the day after the Judge Terry had friended lawyer Charles A. Schieck, Terry told the lawyers he believed the testimony but did not see that it made any difference in deciding custody. Schieck responded, “I will have to see if I can prove a negative.”

That evening, Schieck posted on his Facebook account, “How do I prove a negative?” Judge Terry saw it and responded that he had “two good parents to choose from,” to which Schieck posted his “wise judge” remark. The next day, the two shared additional messages on Facebook. In one, Schieck wrote, “I hope I’m in my last day of trial.” Judge Terry responded, “You are in your last day of trial.”
More

Follow Me

Jason Morris

President & Chief Operating Officer at EmployeeScreenIQ
A veteran screening and risk management professional, Jason Morris founded EmployeeScreenIQ in 1999 and acts as the company’s chief operating officer and president. Morris is a frequent speaker delivering captivating, interactive discussions on background checks, global screening, recruitment and staffing. He educates audiences in best practice initiatives as they relate to organizational employment screening programs. Morris has been quoted in numerous business and industry publications including The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC.com, USA Today, New York Times, among others. He is also a licensed private investigator in the states of Ohio, Illinois, New Jersey, Texas, Arizona and Nevada.
Follow Me
Tweet
Share
Email
Share