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Judge-lawyer Facebook cases goes to Supreme Court

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A Miami-Dade County law firm Tuesday took the first step in asking the Florida Supreme Court to decide whether a circuit judge should be disqualified from a case because she was a Facebook friend of an attorney representing one of the parties.

The Herssein Law Group filed an initial notice at the Supreme Court after the 3rd District Court of Appeal in August rejected a request to disqualify Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Beatrice Butchko.

As is common, the initial notice does not detail the arguments the Herssein firm will make at the Supreme Court.

But the dispute stems from a lawsuit that the firm filed against a former client, United Services Automobile Association, for alleged breach of contract and fraud, according to the appeals-court ruling.

As part of the case, the law firm accused a company executive of witness tampering, and USAA hired Israel Reyes, a former judge, to represent the executive.

The Herssein firm sought to disqualify Butchko because she was a Facebook friend of Reyes.

The firm raised concerns about receiving a fair and impartial trial, but Butchko declined to recuse herself.