Appeals court considers removal of judge who is Facebook friends with lawyer

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Judge Beatrice Butchko/Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida website

A Florida appeals court is considering a law firm’s attempt to force the recusal of a judge for being Facebook friends with a lawyer who entered an appearance for a nonparty in her court.

Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal is considering the bid to remove Miami-Dade Judge Beatrice Butchko from the case, the Daily Business Review (sub. req.) reports.

The Herssein Law Group contends Butchko should not hear the case because she is Facebook friends with lawyer Israel Reyes, a former judicial colleague, and the friendship could influence Butchko. The Herssein Law Group says it intends to add Reyes’ client as a defendant in the suit.

Eleven states have issued guidance on judges’ use of social media, and Florida’s guidelines are among the most restrictive, according to the article. A 2009 Florida ethics opinion says judges should not friend lawyers who may appear before them.

California’s Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled in 2012 that a judge who was Facebook friends with a prosecutor should be disqualified from a criminal case. The defendant in the case before Butchko, the United States Automobile Association, says the Herssein Law Group is more sophisticated than a criminal defendant who might fear bias in such a situation.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Should judges disclose Facebook friends? ‘Context is significant,’ ABA ethics opinion says”

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