Judge, please be my friend

Social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace are increasingly in the news. I wrote recently about such sites and some of their less well known brethren in a piece entitled A duck’s a duck” [28th Oct, 2010]. My concern at the time was to point out that the courts may take the view that a party should disclose details of log-ins and passwords to such sites in certain circumstance (and in the particular instance in Pennsylvania actually so ordered).

If it can happen there (see the case of McMillan v Hummingbird Speedway Inc. then why not here?

Now I see that the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee of the Florida Supreme Court has published a formal opinion to the effect that judges may not be Facebook “friends” with attorneys who may appear before them on the grounds that it may give rise to the appearance of bias and suggest that such attorneys are in a position to influence the judges in question.

The full judgment can be seen here and you will see that a minority of the committee disagreed while noting that the use of the word “friend” on such sites may merely describe acquaintances.

While it is always said that you cannot choose your relations but you can choose your friends, the Florida Supreme Court Ethics Committee disagrees.

Personally I have yet to ask a judge to be my “friend” and will probably now refrain from doing so for fear that I am disappointed! For all my readers, you have been warned that use of networking sites may lead not only to social minefields but may also have more serious repercussions.

I am indebted to the vigilance of Nicola Haye, Practice Support Lawyer at Withers for pointing me to this veritable nugget of internet etiquette.

A duck’s a duck

Lawyers are used to logical thinking and reasoning. After all, most of them will know the duck test: if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. Conclusions are reached by a process of inductive reasoning. Don’t go away! I promise this piece will lighten up shortly and there is a nugget at the end if that is not mixing too many metaphors! Please read on!

I wonder how many people know what the following are: WeeWorld, Taringa! Habbo, Elftown, Qzone, RenRen, Plurk, Bandoo or Viadeo. To hazard a guess, not too many!

But if I asked about LinkedIn, MySpace, Bebo or Facebook, most people would know that they are social networking sites. LinkedIn has over 75 million registered users, Bebo 117m+, MySpace in excess of 130m and Facebook a whopping 500 million and counting.

By contrast the others are relatively small apart from the sites popular in China where RenRen has 15 million registered users and Qzone a highly respectable 200 million plus! [Source: Wikipedia, List of Social Networking Websites]

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