The Digital Edge

Ethical Perils of Social Media for Lawyers and Judges

Of the 46% of judges using social media, 80% are on Facebook and over 30% are on LinkedIn, but activity on social media presents a number of ethical dilemmas for judges, attorneys, jurors, and litigants. In a recent case in Georgia, a judge stepped down after being scrutinized for sending a friend request to a litigant on his upcoming trial calendar and later releasing her on a personal recognizance bond. Similar activities from other judges and attorneys have resulted in violations of both the Code of Professional Conduct and the Code of Judicial Conduct, from unauthorized practice of law across state lines and breaching attorney-client privilege to posting inappropriate comments and sending friend requests to litigants and related attorneys. These ethical perils extend to jurors, who must be reminded of their own limitations in social media use with regard to pending trials. On this episode of The Digital Edge, hosts Sharon Nelson and Jim Calloway interview Judge Herbert B. Dixon, Jr., discussing stories of collateral damage associated with inappropriate social media use and ways legal professionals can avoid ethical missteps. Stay tuned at the end for Judge Dixon’s 4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Posting on Social Media.

Judge Herbert B. Dixon, Jr. sits on the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and is a former chair of the National Conference of State Trial Judges. He is the technology columnist for The Judges’ Journal magazine and a former member of the ABA Techshow Planning Board. Judge Dixon is Senior Judicial Advisor to William & Mary Law School’s Courtroom 21 Project, the Presiding Judge for the Superior Court’s Technology-Enhanced Courtroom Project, and a frequent speaker on topics related to the intersection of law and technology.