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Lawyers Beware: Judges May Be Watching You on Social Media

There's an interesting article this week in Texas Lawyer about how judges are using social media. On one level, having judges who are familiar with social media can be helpful in dealing with certain issues that may arise at trial, like tweeting jurors or electronic discovery involving sites like Twitter and Flickr. But on another level, some of the judicial Facebook usage described in this article seemed a bit intrusive, in my view.

Judge Susan Criss, of Galveston's 212th District Court where she's served since 1999, often "friends" lawyers through Facebook. In order to avoid any communications that might be perceived as ex parte, Criss asks lawyers to de-friend her if they're appearing before her at trial. But as she peruses the Facebook profiles of her friends and associates, Criss sometimes comes across comments by litigants bragging about how they'll make money off a case. She says that in these instances she alerts lawyers on both sides. That's courteous, but lawyers should be sufficiently familiar with social media to check these sites themselves.

Similarly, Criss keeps track of what lawyers are doing. According to the story,

Criss recalls that recently a lawyer told her she needed a continuance because of a death in her family. The judge previously had given the lawyer a weeklong continuance, but at a subsequent hearing the lawyer's senior partner, who appeared on her behalf, told Criss his colleague actually needed a month-long postponement, Criss says. "I knew from her bragging on a Facebook account that she had been partying that same week," Criss says. The judge says she told the senior partner at the hearing about her Facebook discovery and denied his request.

Another time, Criss says, she told the lawyers in her courtroom for a weeklong trial that she intended to go to a bench-bar conference and would miss a day of court. "Then that evening, I was on Facebook. I saw another lawyer post about the bench-bar conference. The lawyer who had been in my courtroom then wrote, 'Judge Criss is coming to speak at your conference Friday. Be nice to her so she will be in a good mood when I come back.' I wrote, 'I will be in a good mood when I come back.'" The lawyer who first posted about the conference then wrote to the friend, "Ha, ha you forgot Facebook was public," Criss adds.

That seems a little scary to me!

What do you think of this judge's use of Facebook?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on August 25, 2009 at 05:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)


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