Facebook ‘Friendship’ Between Judge And Defendant Raises Questions

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Last week, Philadelphia municipal court judge Charles Hayden dismissed some key evidence in a drunk driving case against Pennsylvania state house member Cherelle Parker. The state attorney general is mulling an appeal. Some questions have been raised over a Facebook “friendship” the judge shares with the defendant.

Just because two people are linked on the site does not mean an actual connection. However, that may not be the case when it comes to judges.

“A Facebook friendship could have the appearance of impropriety, even if there’s nothing untoward going on or even if people barely know each other,” said Michael Risch, associate professor of law at Villanova University School of Law.

Risch says that there are similar pitfalls for those in the hot seat.

“If you’re a litigant, you really don’t want a positive outcome to be tainted by people thinking it wasn’t fair. And it only adds one more reason to have that outcome reversed on appeal,” Risch said.

In a statement to the Philadelphia Inquirer, an attorney for Parker called the assumption that Parker and Hayden are friends because they appear so on Facebook “ludicrous.”

Risch says Twitter carries its own risks for judges who want to broadcast more than just what is for dinner. When it comes to judicial conduct, he expects social media rules soon to be put in black and white.

Reported by Ian Bush, KYW Newsradio 1060

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