Sandra Chace, wife in a divorce case, prior to final judgment in her case, received a friend request from Seminole County Judge Linda Schoonover. Chace contacted her attorney about the friend request. Chace’s attorney advised her to decline the friend invite. Judge Schoonover then entered final judgment awarding Chace’s husband an excessive alimony award while Chace received most of the marital debt. Chace became aware that Judge Schoonover had been involved in other social media ex parte communications that led to her disqualification after she filed a motion related to the final judgment in her case. A motion to disqualify also followed in Chace’s case. Judge Schoonover denied the motion as “legally insufficient.” The appellate court disagreed.
Some local attorneys have sharply criticized Judge Schoonover publicly and formal complaints have been made. WFTV Local 9 covered the story. The Orlando Sentinel followed up with a story yesterday and Judge Shoonover’s attorney is quoted in the article blaming the attacks against his client on political retribution. Attorney Greg Eisenmenger stated that Judge Schoonover is the target of criticism because in 2010 she unseated, Clayton Simmons, former chief judge of Seminole-Brevard counties.
The American Bar Association issued an advisory opinion last year based on its Model Code of Judicial Conduct.
“A judge may participate in electronic social networking, but as with all social relationships and contacts, a judge must comply with relevant provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct and avoid any conduct that would undermine the judge’s independence, integrity, or impartiality, or create an appearance of impropriety.”