Our Linked-In Judiciary
"Your Honor, I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn."
Connect with a judge on LinkedIn? I have not done it. But an increasing number of judges are creating public profiles on the professional networking site. Among them are federal circuit, district and bankruptcy judges and state appellate and trial judges.
For example, I found five U.S. Circuit Court judges with public LinkedIn profiles: Richard Clifton of the 9th Circuit, Deborah Cook of the 6th Circuit, Jennifer Elrod of the 5th Circuit, John M. Ferren of the D.C. Circuit and Edith Jones of the 5th Circuit. (There are others who keep their profiles private, such as this judge of the D.C. Circuit and this judge of the Federal Circuit.) These judges' networks of connections are small by LinkedIn standards -- Judge Elrod has the largest network with 27 connections followed by Judge Jones with nine. The others have only three or four.
Also on LinkedIn are at least two federal district judges, Bernice Donald, who sits in Memphis, Tenn., and Nancy Gertner, who sits in Boston; two U.S. bankruptcy judges, Robert Kwan, who sits in Los Angeles, and Pamela Pepper, who sits in Milwaukee, Wis.; and one U.S. magistrate-judge, Jeff Manske, who sits in Waco, Texas. Of the federal judges I found on LinkedIn, Manske is the most linked, with a network of 54 connections.
My search of LinkedIn turned up a number of state appellate and trial judges, including one Supreme Court justice, G. Barry Anderson of the Minnesota Supreme Court (with 39 connections), and a number of intermediary appellate court judges. Other state appellate judges I found (with the number of connections in parenthesis) were:
- Anne Elizabeth Barnes, Judge, Court of Appeals of Georgia (36)
- Patrick Dinkelacker, Judge, 1st District Court of Appeals, Ohio (28)
- Elizabeth Gleicher, Judge, Michigan Court of Appeals, Detroit (3)
- Sergio Gutierrez, Judge, Idaho Court of Appeals (4)
- John Irwin, Judge, Nebraska Court of Appeals, Omaha (124)
- Woodie Jones, Chief Justice, 3rd Court of Appeals, Austin, Texas (329)
- Kirsten Frank Kelly, Judge, Michigan Court of Appeals (6)
- Leslie King, Chief Judge, Mississippi Court of Appeals (1)
- Michael Massengale, Justice, 1st Court of Appeals, Houston, Texas (216)
- Melissa May, Judge, Indiana Court of Appeals, Indianapolis (7)
- Lawrence Mooney, Judge, Missouri Court of Appeals, St. Louis (16)
- Joy Moore, Judge, Kentucky Court of Appeals (19).
- Jim Moseley, Justice, 5th District Court of Appeals, Texas (21)
- Colleen O'Toole, Judge, 11th District Court of Appeals, Ohio (18)
- Mark Pfeiffer, Judge, Missouri Court of Appeals, Kansas City (14)
- Kent Sullivan, Judge, Texas Court of Appeals (69)
There are also a number of state trial judges from all across the country with profiles on LinkedIn. I need not list all I found here. But you may be interested to know the answer to this question: Who among the judges on LinkedIn is the most connected? I can't claim my research was exhaustive, but of the judges I found with public profiles on LinkedIn, the five with the largest numbers of connections were:
1. Derek Mosley, Judge, Milwaukee, Wis., Municipal Court (419)
2. Woodie Jones, Chief Justice, 3rd Court of Appeals, Austin, Texas (329)
3. Michael Massengale, Justice, 1st Court of Appeals, Houston, Texas (216)
4. Herb Wright Jr., Judge, 4th Division Circuit Court, Arkansas (186)
5. Elisabeth Earle, Judge, Travis County, Texas (161)
Let me be clear: As far as I can determine, there is nothing inappropriate or unethical about a judge maintaining a profile on LinkedIn. However, online networking poses traps for the unwary -- and perhaps even more so for judges.
I wrote previously here about the judge who was reprimanded for comments he posted to Facebook. That would seem an obvious trap to avoid.
But another looming issue for judges who engage in professional networking is the identity of their connections. Could a judge's connections on LinkedIn or Facebook create the potential for conflicts of interest? Should litigants routinely vet a judge's social-networking profile in advance of a trial? Should judges be required to make public disclosures of the individuals and groups they connect to online?
Besides the potential ethical pitfalls, there are aspects of some LinkedIn profiles that just seem inappropriate for a judge. For example, LinkedIn profiles allow a user to specify settings for what sorts of contacts they are open to receiving. One Ohio appellate judge says on her profile that she is open to "career opportunities" and "business deals." She is far from alone among the judges I looked at in welcoming those types of contacts. Is it wrong? I do not think so. But it may be in bad taste.
There are many legitimate reasons for judges to be on LinkedIn and other professional networking sites. A recent issue of Case in Point, the magazine of the National Judicial College, suggests that participation in social media and online networking can be a low-cost way for judges to keep themselves informed and at the same time enhance public understanding of the judiciary.
So, next time I come across a judge I know on LinkedIn, maybe I'll extend the judge an invitation to network. It doesn't hurt to ask.
Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on August 20, 2009 at 10:34 AM | Permalink
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