Judges told to watch it when using Facebook

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Judges told to watch it when using Facebook

Judges should exercise self-restraint when expressing their political views on social networking services and try their best to avoid controversy, the Supreme Court said yesterday.

The Supreme Court’s public ethics committee ruled last Friday on an advisory opinion regarding judges’ use of SNS services to express their personal opinions after six months of deliberation.

Its advisory opinion on “Matters that judges need heeding to when using SNS” said that when judges use SNS like Facebook, they should conduct themselves according to their ethics code, which requires judges to remain politically neutral to ensure impartiality in the judicial system.

Claiming a post was made public “by mistake” does not cut it anymore, the 11-member committee said, warning judges not to make mistakes. It said they should understand the features of the social networking services they use.

Furthermore judges need to be cautious of any exchange with litigants via SNS and also refrain from commenting on specific cases.

Last November, Choi Eun-bae, a senior judge at the Incheon District Court, stirred controversy when he posted on his Facebook page a message critical of the ratification of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement.

As debate arose as to whether judges should be allowed to express their personal or political views on SNS, the public ethics committee said it would issue guidelines. Choi was warned by the ethics committee to be careful of his words.

The issue snowballed after several liberal judges lampooned President Lee Myung-bak on Facebook in December and February and faced disciplinary action.

One judge was thrown off the bench for the comment and for poor performance, according to the Supreme Court. Another was suspended for six months.

By Sarah Kim [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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