For an institution that is supposed to appear at all times above the fray, it can get tricky when members of the judiciary decide to accept a Facebook friend request or even just retweet a news article. A set of federal and state appellate court decisions over the summer offered some guidance on what’s allowable for judges when it comes to social media, but a lot is still murky. This week on Unprecedented, we explore the ethical boundaries for the bench online, as well as what judges are telling lawyers about social media behavior.

“For judges, this area has really just exploded, in part because of the role that politics plays in many states — 39 states elect their judges in some kind of partisan election,” says guest John Browning, an attorney at Passman Jones in Dallas who has written at length about the issue. Multiple states have dealt with whether judges “liking” a fellow judge’s campaign Facebook site is an impermissible endorsement. Some judges don’t even realize what they’re sharing with the world.  “We have, in some sense, judges with a lack of understanding of how it works.”

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About the podcast: “Unprecedented” is a biweekly podcast hosted by reporter Ben Hancock about technology, the law, and the future of litigation. Based in San Francisco, Ben writes about third-party litigation finance, legal data analytics, artificial intelligence, privacy, and related issues. Listen to more podcasts here.