So, I didn’t manage to post last week and this is something of an apology to those of you loyal readers who kept coming to the site last week each day looking for content. (Rest assured, there’s also some substantive discussion of a live ethics issue in the post as well.)
I don’t have any real great excuse as there is always work, sometimes travel, and other commitments to overcome to keep this blog going, but the only new piece of the puzzle last week that played a role in my failure to come through was my 44th birthday last Tuesday.
It was a weird one as thinking about it caught me up and resulted in more melancholy than joy. Thinking about it statistically, 44 signaled that was likely through 2/3 of my life and only had 1/3 to go. In that context, and I’m certain likely many others in the legal profession, I kept ruminating on my belief that I haven’t been as successful professionally as I would have hoped I’d be at this stage of my life. I know this sounds like one of those Facebook posts from people pursuing an indirect “woe is me” cry for attention but it isn’t meant that way at all, just an explanation for last week’s radio silence.
Speaking of Facebook, Florida continues to dedicate far too may judicial resources to the resolution of a question that — if you set technology aside ought to be easily answerable — can judges and lawyers be “friends” on Facebook.
Karen Rubin over at The Law For Lawyers Today provided a good run down last week of the history of the Florida case, so I won’t retread that ground and instead am going to take the opportunity to repeat (though I don’t believe I’ve ever stated them here on my blog) my views on the absurdity of the underlying “debate” about the issue.
Judges are human beings. Human beings, even awful ones, are still going to manage to have a few friends. The judicial ethics rules do not prohibit judges from having friends who are lawyers. Thus, there is no rational way the judicial ethics rules can be said to prohibit judges from being friends with lawyers on Facebook. The judicial ethics rules do contemplate that a friendship between a judge and a lawyer can, if close enough, result in a judge needing to recuse herself from a case involving the lawyer. Thus, whether a judge and a lawyer are friends on Facebook should simply be one factor in evaluating whether the nature of the friendship is close enough that the judge needs to recuse. Actual real-world interactions between the lawyer and the judge though should be a more important factor. The analysis of this issue in any jurisdiction, including Florida, should be as simple as that.
In fact, I believe that judges using Facebook and being friends with lawyers actually does the public a service because it provides litigants and their counsel with a level of transparency they might not otherwise obtain to evaluate whether a judge has a real-world friendship with a lawyer that merits the bringing of a motion to disqualify the judge. On Facebook, even if a judge has all of her privacy settings as locked down as possible, you can still view a list of the judge’s friends. Armed with that information, a litigant or a lawyer can then raise the issue and may come to learn of a true, deep friendship between lawyer and judge that might not have otherwise been discovered.