Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert, which will discuss a recent reprimand of a Tennessee judge for “liking” and “sharing” Facebook posts on divisive social issues. The case is Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct Complaints No. B19-7753 & B19-7777 (Nov. 15, 2019) and the November 15, 2019 reprimand is here: https://media.myfoxmemphiscom.cmgdigital.com/document_dev/2019/11/18/lammey%20reprimand%20letter_16841943_ver1.0.pdf
According to the reprimand letter, among other allegations, the judge shared an article on Facebook by a holocaust denier that stated that some people needed to “get the f*** over the Holocaust” as “an interesting read” (although the letter states that he was found not to be a “holocaust denier”). The judge also “shared” images on Facebook which reflected “a strong position on professional athletes kneeling during the national anthem”; opposed support for Hillary Clinton and the black lives matter movement; expressed a position on “anti-Jihadist sentiment,” and reflected a “bias in favor of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.”
The reprimand states that the board found no proof that the judge showed “actual bias, prejudice toward any litigant who appeared before him or that he made “anti-Semitic, racist, or anti-immigration” statements; however, it did find that his “likes” and “shares” were “partisan in nature” and, 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.” (citing judicial canons).
The judge accepted the public reprimand and, as a condition, he agreed to “refrain from making any future comments or disseminate any substantially similar social media posts on any social media platform that may be reasonably be perceived as prejudiced or biased,” make his social media platforms “private”, and complete a judicial ethics program approved by the Board.
Bottom line: This is another interesting example of a social media presence gone awry. Although this judge never made any comments regarding the articles that he “shared” or “liked”, he was found to have violated the Tennessee Canons of Judicial Conduct and reprimanded.
Be careful out there.
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Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire
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