Florida's Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee responded to a few questions from one Florida judge about the use of social networking sites. The Committee found that judges cannot accept friend requests from litigants in their court. They take special care to note:
This opinion should not be interpreted to mean that the inquiring judge is prohibited from identifying any person as a "friend" on a social networking site. Instead, it is limited to the facts presented by the inquiring judge, related to lawyers who may appear before the judge. Therefore, this opinion does not apply to the practice of listing as “friends” persons other than lawyers, or to listing as “friends” lawyers who do not appear before the judge, either because they do not practice in the judge's area or court or because the judge has listed them on the judge’s recusal list so that their cases are not assigned to the judge.
It's pretty clear from this opinion that accepting a request on Facebook, LinkedIn and Myspace from a litigant in the judge's court are out. The opinion does not just apply to those sites though:
Although Facebook has been used as an example in this opinion, the holding of the opinion would apply to any social networking site which requires the member of the site to approve the listing of a “friend” or contact on the member's site, if (1) that person is a lawyer who appears before the judge, and (2) identification of the lawyer as the judge’s “friend” is thereafter displayed to the public or the judge's or lawyer's other “friends” on the judge's or the lawyer's page.
Any sites with a Facebook-like approach will obviously meet the criteria of this opinion. My question is: what about Twitter? If someone is protected on Twitter, they have to approve all followers. However, anybody can see which followers have been approved. So, does that constitute identification as a "friend" on the judge's page? I think it very well might.
You can read the full committee opinion, which also discusses campaign committees,
Hat tip to the