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Judge Punished for Inappropriate Facebook Posts 
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Facebook Sues Prestigious Law Firm for Fraud

Summary: A senior judge in Minnesota has been publicly reprimanded for his inappropriate Facebook posts about ongoing human trafficking, kidnapping, and homicide cases.

On Friday, the Minnesota Board of Judicial Standards reprimanded Judge Edward Bearse of Anoka County. Bearse had been caught posting tidbits about his presiding cases on Facebook.

  
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According to the Star Tribune, this is the first time disciplinary action has been taken against a Minnesota judge because of social media usage, but other courts around the country have grappled with free speech, the appearance of impartiality, and a defendant’s right to a fair trial.

“As a government employee, judges, like all other public employees, retain speech rights, but they are limited in ways in which other people’s speech rights are not,” Raleigh Levine, a professor at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, said. “There is a real concern that there is an appearance of partiality here. The Supreme Court has made it clear that members of the public must be able to believe in the impartiality of those on the bench.”

The 73-year-old senior judge said he was relatively new to Facebook and didn’t realize the public could see his tame but inappropriate postings. Examples of his writing included “We deal w/ a lot of geniuses!” in reference to defendants with long criminal histories and once referring to a defendant as a “Klunk.” The worst of it, though, was that a guilty verdict for a sex trafficking case was vacated when prosecutors and the defense discovered he wrote lengthy posts about the trial.

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“Having to start all over is a challenge for anyone’s resources,” Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem said to the Star Tribune.

At the Board trial, Bearse admitted he was wrong to post about his cases, but he thought that only his 80 Facebook friends could see his posts, which out of ignorance, he had not set to private. He was remorseful and regretted sharing the posts with friends in the first place.



The Board wrote that although there were no signs Bearse was unfair as a judge, his posts “could undermine the appearance of his impartiality.”

This was Bearse’s first discipline in his career of 32 years. The public reprimand carries no fine.

Source: http://www.startribune.com/anoka-county-judge-reprimanded-for-facebook-posts-about-cases/352399481/

Source: http://www.mprnews.org/story/2015/11/20/edward-bearse



 

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