Social Media…Mo’ Friends, Mo’ Problems

by | Aug 24, 2017

For most adults, social media is a way to keep up with family, friends since it’s really just a networking opportunity. It’s a great option for getting news, learning about events, wish happy birthday and even learn about new products. And today, it’s totally normal to have only 200 connections, “followers” or “friends.” But it’s more likely social media users have thousands of “friends” on their various social media platforms.

Not for the first time, a case out of Miami has judges asking the question: How deep are social media relationships?

Miami-Dade County Judge Beatrice Butchko and her social media Facebook page were under scrutiny after the Herssein Law Group requested Judge Butchko be dismissed from a case when the law firm found out Judge Butchko was Facebook friends with a particular person.

Here’s the short version.

The Herssein Law Group filed a lawsuit for breach of contract and fraud against a former client, United Services Automobile Association.

USAA hired a former judge, Israel Reyes to defend USAA.

In June, the Herssein Law Group asked that Judge Butchko be disqualified because she and Reyes are Facebook friends. The law group voiced concerns about being able to receive a fair trial due to the relationship between Butchko and Reyes.

This week, the 3rd District Court of Appeals rejected the request to disqualify Judge Butchko in a 10-page decision.

“To be sure, some of a member’s Facebook `friends’ are undoubtedly friends in the classic sense of person for whom the member feels particular affection and loyalty. The point is, however, many are not. A random name drawn from a list of Facebook `friends’ probably belongs to casual friend; an acquaintance; an old classmate; a person with whom the member shares a common hobby; a `friend of a friend;’ or even a local celebrity like a coach. An assumption that all Facebook `friends’ rise to the level of a close relationship that warrants disqualification simply does not reflect the current nature of this type of electronic social networking,” wrote Judge Thomas Logue, who was joined by judges Edwin Scales and Ivan Fernandez. “The designation of a person as a `friend’ on Facebook does not differentiate between a close friend and a distant acquaintance.”




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