March 9, 2012
Judge May Ethically Blog Subject To Constant Public Scrutiny
A recent opinion from the Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee:
May a judge publish a blog that reports on Florida Supreme Court and District Court of Appeal cases as they are released, where the entries are intended to be neutral, nonjudgmental, brief summaries of the facts and holdings, with a link to the full opinion of each case?
The inquiring judge proposes to publish a blog where the judge will be reporting on cases as they are released by the Florida Supreme Court and the District Courts of Appeal. It is not the inquiring judge’s intent to editorialize, criticize, or otherwise evaluate any of the opinions. Instead, the blog would only alert the reader to the release of the opinion and briefly describe what the opinion states. The blog would also alert the reader to changes in the rules of procedure and the Evidence Code.
After discussing prior opinions, the committee notes:
If all cases to be included in the present inquiring judge’s blog were final (i.e. no discussion of pending or impending cases would be included) nothing in the present inquiry suggests the inquiring judge would be placing on the proposed blog anything that could not be included in any other teaching activity.
It is not practicable to list all the provisions of the Code that could apply to a judge’s blog, and a judge must expect to be the subject of constant public scrutiny. Moreover, the Committee does not screen, comment on or approve the content of written material or speech, and likewise will not review in advance the content of any blog. So, before publishing material on the blog, the judge should carefully examine all provisions of the Code that relate to the blog and its topics, to insure that the judge is not publishing on the blog something the judge could not ethically say in person. The Committee also advises that an interactive blog may invite inappropriate comment by the judge and therefore the judge would be well-advised to exercise caution in engaging in such activity. Additionally, the judge may consider adding a disclaimer to the blog that clarifies the judge does not endorse or vouch for the comments of others on the blog, and that such comments do not represent the views of the judge.
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