May a judge tacitly comment on social issues of the day by “liking” and “sharing” posts by others on Facebook? No, according to a November 2019 public reprimand by the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct. See Tn. Bd. of Judicial Conduct Complaints No. B19-7753 & B19-7777 (Nov. 15, 2019).
A Memphis judge shared as “an interesting read” an article that stated that some people needed to “get the f*** over the Holocaust.” He also, “shared” images on Facebook: reflecting “a strong position on professional athletes kneeling during the national anthem”; opposing support for Hillary Clinton and the black lives matter movement; expressing a position on “anti-Jihadist sentiment,” and reflecting “bias in favor of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.”
Although the board found no evidence that the judge made “anti-Semitic, racist, or anti-immigration” statements, it did find that his “likes” and “shares” were “partisan in nature.” As a result, the judge’s conduct had the “appearance of impropriety,” reflected adversely on his “impartiality and temperament” and could “reasonably be perceived as prejudiced or biased.” Id. (citing Canons 1 & 2). In accepting a public reprimand, the judge agreed to “refrain from making any future comments or disseminate any substantially similar social media posts on any social media platform,” and to make his social media platforms “private.”
Judges, don’t even “like” that viral video of the kitten playing with the seal, cute though it may be. What you like may not like you back.