Social-Media Policies: Ethical Issues for Court Employees

Social-media policies are the hot topic in the world of employment law. Questions about the advisability of social-media policies and the legal limits on what these policies may and may not regulate continue to abound. Employers who may be considering whether they need or want a social-media policy usually appreciate helpful resources on the subject. One particularly excellent resource on social-media policies is the Resource Packet for Developing Guidelines on Use of Social Media by Judicial Employees, published last year by the Judicial Conference Committee on Codes of Conduct.

The Packet includes a brief but substantive overview of some of the ethical issues arising from the use of social media by court employees, as well as a primer for those who looking for a fundamental understanding of the tools before moving to regulate those tools.

The Packet also includes sample language for use when drafting a social-media policy for judicial employees, as well as where to find such policies already in place.

Like the rules of professional conduct, which apply to lawyers’ online activities, the Code of Conduct for Judicial Employees applies to all online activities, including social medial. As explained in the Resource:

The advent of social media does not broaden ethical restrictions; rather, the existing Code extends to the use of social media.

Although directed to judicial employees, the Resource contains valuable lessons for all legal professionals, as well as for employers generally.

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This is an edited version of a post originally posted on the Going Paperless Blog, where I write about technology issues affecting legal professionals. I’m reposting it here because it contains information many employers may find valuable.

See also
Our three-part series on the legal limits imposed by the First Amendment in the context of social-media policies in the public-employment context. In Part 1, we discussed the general application of the First Amendment to workplace policies and rules. In Part 2, we focused on the 3-part analysis applicable to limits on speech imposed on public employees. And in Part 3, we discussed some of the cases upholding discipline based on employees’ off-duty speech, similar to the speech social-media policies attempt to address.

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