Can you recuse a Judge for Facebook “friends”? Some Florida courts say that you can. Some say you can’t. Like all things legal – it depends on the facts.
Thinking about your own Facebook account, how many “friends” do you have? How many are really your “friends”? If you’re like most people, you have hundreds of Facebook “friends” who you never hang out with, call, or even see.
Believe it or not, Florida courts have actually defined what a real friend is. Unlike a Facebook “friend” a real friend is:
“A person attached to another person by feelings of affection or personal regard.” Good to know.
Florida courts have looked at the issue of Facebook “friends” in a number of cases. In one case, a juror was “friends” on Facebook with a relative of the victim. But the juror didn’t even recall the “friend” and didn’t recognize the victim’s name. (At the beginning of jury selection the judge tells potential jurors who the parties are so that if a juror knows any of the parties, they can tell the judge and be dismissed).
In another case out of the 4th DCA, a judge actually Facebook “friend” ed the wife in a divorce case. Besides being really weird – the court said that made the judge impartial and granted the request to recuse the judge.
In a recent case out of the the 3rd DCA, lawyers asked that a judge be recused because he was Facebook “friends” with the opposing lawyer. They said that the judge could not be fair or impartial because of this “friendship.” But the 3rd DCA disagreed. They say just having a “friend” on Facebook doesn’t necessarily mean the judge will be impartial. The criteria to determine whether or not a judge should recuse themselves is whether “a reasonably prudent person believes he or she would not receive a fair and impartial trial” .
Let’s face it, in small communities every one knows everyone else. Most of the judges on the bench in Pasco and Pinellas counties are lawyers I either worked with, or went to law school with, or both. Some I would consider friends in the real sense. Others I would consider Facebook “friends”. Every judge can’t recuse themselves because of a Facebook friendship.
Criminal cases are always about fairness and impartiality. We want the judges and jurors to be impartial. If you believe the judge is unfair, that’s an opinion. If you can prove that he or she is unfair and impartial because of a relationship with someone involved in the case, that’s probably grounds to recuse the judge.
If you have any questions about the fairness of your judge in a criminal case. Call us. We offer free consultations on all criminal cases.