Texas Judge Ordered to Take Social Media Course

     GALVESTON, Texas (CN) – A Texas judge removed from a case for talking about it on Facebook was publicly scolded by a state watchdog and ordered to take a course on social media.
     The State Commission on Judicial Conduct ordered state judge Michelle Slaughter to take four hours of class with a mentor about a judge’s ethical use of social media.
     The commission issued the public admonition on Friday in which it claims Slaughter misused her public Facebook page, which shows a picture of her in her judge robes, by posting comments about Texas v. David M. Wieseckel, a criminal case in her court, in April 2014.
     Prosecutors charged Wieseckel with unlawful restraint of a child for allegedly keeping his 9-year-old son in a 6-by-8 foot wooden enclosure in the boy’s room.
     The media called it the “The Boy in the Box” case. A defense attorney moved to limit use of the term “box” to the wooden enclosure, claiming the word hurt Wieseckel’s case.
     The commission says Slaughter denied the motion stating: “Calling it a wooden enclosure – certainly the press has referred to it as ‘The Boy in the Box’ case, that sort of thing. So I don’t think that there’s going to be prejudice. The jury can make up their own minds as to what they believe that is.”
     Then after Slaughter instructed the jury not to discuss the case on social media she did just that, the public admonition states.
     “After we finished Day 1 of the case called the ‘Boy in the Box’ case, trustees from the jail came in and assembled the actual 6″x8′ ‘box’ inside the courtroom!” Slaughter wrote on her Facebook page. She also posted a link to a Reuters story about the case.
     A defense attorney saw Slaughter’s posts and moved to have her recused and for a mistrial. Both motions were granted.
     “Slaughter defended her public Facebook comments about the Wieseckel case, arguing to the commission that the purpose of her comments was to promote ‘transparency’ and to ‘encourage individuals to come watch the proceedings,'” the 6-page admonition states.
     The judge also said her Facebook comments did not tip her hand in the case.
     The commission found her in violation of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct for posting about the Wieseckel case, in which a jury found Wieseckel not guilty in November 2014, and an unrelated child porn possession case.
     It ordered her to complete four hours of instruction on “proper and ethical use of social media by judges” within 60 days after she notifies it in writing she has been assigned a mentor.
     Slaughter told the Houston Chronicle she will appeal the commission’s order.

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