Supreme Court hears arguments in Facebook friend request case.


Byline: Michaela Paukner,

Justices on the Wisconsin Supreme Court heard arguments on Monday ina case that's giving the justices a chance to adopt or clarify rules about judges' use of social media.

The case Miller v. Carroll stems from a custody battle in Barron County. Judge J.M. Bitney had become Facebook friends with Angela Carroll before ruling in her favor in the dispute. Miller filed an appeal in October 2017, raising questions about partiality. In February 2019, a Court of Appealsconcluded that the undisclosed Facebook friendship "created a great risk of actual bias resulting in the appearance of partiality" and ruled a due-process violation had occurred.

Carroll's attorney, Brandon Schwartzof Schwartz Law Firm in Oakdale, Minn.,filed a petition for review, and the state Supreme Court took up the case last year. In Monday's hearing, the justices asked about communications betweenBitney and Carroll and if such dealings qualified as ex parte communications and discussed the communications within the context of the custody case.

Schwartz started his arguments by saying there was no communication between Carroll and Bitney. But about 30seconds into his opening statement, he was stopped by Justice Dan Kelly, who wondered if Schwartz was speaking with strict accuracy. Kelly said even the simple act of sending a friend request could be considered communication.

Schwartz responded that the only way to prove that Bitney had not been impartial would be to show that any communication between him and Carroll touched on the merits of the...

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