Friend of the Court: Florida Judge Forced Off Divorce Case After Trying To “Friend” Litigant And Then Allegedly Retaliating Against Her For Declining The Offer

Judge_Schoonover200px-Facebook.svgJudge Linda D. Schoonover appears to have a different concept of a “friend of the court” party. The Seminole Circuit judge has been removed from a divorce case where she tried to “friend” one of the litigants, Sandra Chace. Chace declined on the advice of counsel to be a friend of Judge Schoonover. Her lawyer says that Schoonover responded with retaliation against her in a type of “scratch a Friend find a Foe” ploy.

The judge proceeded to shift most of the marital debt in her divorce to Chace and giving her husband, Robert Loisel Jr., a larger alimony award.

Now Schoonover’s colleagues have overturned her order that denied Chace’s motion for disqualification. The panel found that “a judge’s ex parte communication with a party presents a legally sufficient claim for disqualification, particularly in the case where the party’s failure to respond to a Facebook ‘friend’ request creates a reasonable fear of offending the solicitor.” The panel held that “The ‘friend’ request placed the litigant between the proverbial rock and a hard place: either engage in improper ex parte communications with the judge presiding over the case, or risk offending the judge by not accepting the ‘friend’ request.”

Previously, a court in Domville v. State, 103 So. 3d 184 (Fla. 4th DCA 2012), rev. denied, State v.
Domville, 110 So. 3d 441 (Fla. 2013), ruled that a judge’s social networking “friendship” with the prosecutor of the underlying criminal case was sufficient grounds for recusal for creating a well-founded fear of not receiving a fair and impartial trial.

Last year, the American Bar Association issued an opinion on judge’s using social media sites and cautioned against such contacts with parties. The ABA said that such contacts are permissible only to the extent that they do not “undermine the judge’s independence, integrity, or impartiality, or create an appearance of impropriety.” This includes the caution that

“Judges should not form relationships with persons or groups that may convey an impression that these people and entities are in a position to influence the judge, the opinion says. Judges also should take care to avoid comments or interactions that may be interpreted as ex parte communications concerning pending matters. And they should avoid using social networking sites to obtain information about matters before them.”

In quashing the prior order, the panel is leaving it to Schoonover to do the right thing with the lingering threat that “We trust that the issuance of a formal writ will be unnecessary.”

Here is the opinion: Chace v. Louisel

Schoonover is a graduated of Stetson College of Law (1985) and Florida State University (1977).

25 thoughts on “Friend of the Court: Florida Judge Forced Off Divorce Case After Trying To “Friend” Litigant And Then Allegedly Retaliating Against Her For Declining The Offer”

  1. Thanks so much for removing my address from the thread. I appreciate that. I do not think I was over reacting when it took days for someone to help me. As you know some of my posts asking for help were removed but the post in question was not.
    I enjoy your site and will stay on unless you want me to go.

  2. COME ON. Now you delete my posts asking for help with an issue on this site but you dont provide the help? Above is a post with my email address where my name should be. PLEASE DELETE IT.


    1. Lew,

      We were not sure if you had mistakenly published your name and not just your address. As a precaution to be sure, we deleted the thread. This was done out of an effort to satisfy you. It was done with the best intentions. Now your email has been removed. You may now want to move on to another blog since you are clearly unhappy with the management of this blog. I manage this blog in the limited time that I have in the mornings and often between litigation demands. That often results in delays. However, now that we have corrected your earlier mistake, I would recommend you find a site with a more active management to your liking. Thanks again for your earlier participation in our discussion.

  3. This case seems to be one of a kind where the litigant really had no choice whatsoever. What exactly do you in that kind of a situation where you have to appease a person knowing full well that you would actually be doing a wrong thing? Hope common sense would prevail on the judge and the person would refrain from this kind of behavior in the future.

  4. Like to get easy Florida Online Divorce! It is really easy divorce. It also Legal Document Preparation Services works with clients all over Florida.

  5. hskiprob:

    If the Judicial Qualifications Commission determines that there is no probable cause, the complaint will be dismissed. I don’t know what the complaint alleges in this instance. But investigation of the complaint proceeds separately and is wholly unrelated to what ultimately happens in the civil case.

  6. Seminole County is where Trayvon was tried. They give the tribe a bad name. Maybe change the name to Bent County. I am part Seminole Tribe in a prior life and do not like what is coming out of those white citizens there. It also seems like more apCray comes out of the State of Florida than any other state. If we could tally up the number of injustice cases from Florida on this blog it would probably reach 25%.

  7. Anything less than removal and further discipline of yanking Bar card and more; would be an additional miscarriage of justice.

    These acts weren’t just wrong;

    they were Seriously Wrong!

  8. I have known Linda Schoonover for many years. So I find myself simultaneously astonished and disappointed. Under the facts and the applicable rules, Judge Schoonover should have granted the recusal motion without question. She should also have realized that her failure to do so would be reversed on appeal.

    The opinion states that Ms. Chace filed a formal complaint against the judge following entry of the final judgment in the dissolution proceeding. That complaint will be handled by the Judicial Qualifications Commission and will likely result in disciplinary action, which could range from a reprimand to removal from the bench by the Florida Supreme Court.

  9. Public’s trust is axiomatic when parties are placed in any position of public stead. That being stated, my faith in the integrity of the judicial process – as a reality – on a scale of 1 being pure and 100 being the bottom;

    is about an 87.

    1. LaserDLiguidator – If you take into consideration the numerous abrogations of the Constitution by the Judiciary, such as the right to travel, right to redress of grievances, right to be secure in your person and effects, right to bare arms, property rights, etc. etc. etc., that 87, is a extremely high number. Going to war with out a Declaration of War. The fraudulent enactment of the 16th amendment and it’s cover up. There a find group of elderly ladies and gents.

  10. He should be disbarred. How is it that so many Judges are almost sociopathic in their actions and determinations. These type actions are almost brought to us on a daily basis from around our great nation. What is it, one of the criteria’s of being on the Judiciary? And the Prosecutors are just as bad, if not worse.

    Otteray, I not sure we could ever define “public trust”. That seems to be an oxymoron. When ever a politicians says the legislation is designed for the public trust, a humongous blood red flag should arise from the depths our historical knowledge and experiences.

  11. If a judge can get disqualified for “friending” on Facebook and the retaliation for not being accepted as a Friend, shouldn’t Supreme Court justices be disciplined for accepting gifts and hunting trips from Friends who are litigants in front of the court?? 🙂

  12. I am wondering what kinda friend she wanted if she retaliated like this….

    Charlton…. I disagree…. If they were a friend before…. Alls she would have to do was to disclose to the supervisor….. But to kick someone when they are down…. If they had been friend is pretty petty…..

    Unlike in this case… But for the judge trying to friend….. In an active litigation…. That would be improper……

  13. Otteray Scribe

    This behavior shows a remarkable lack of common sense and social skills, not to mention an ethical lapse. When I interview new hires for law enforcement agencies, I always ask if they have a Facebook page or internet friends.

    Yeah, “don’t talk about helping them torture people” and stuff on the inner tubes:

    Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) released a copy of a letter they sent to the Ethics Office of the American Psychological Association (APA). The letter sharply criticizes APA for sitting seven years on an ethics complaint made against Dr. John Leso, who was a military psychologist at Guantanamo and an early member of that prison’s Behavioral Science Consultant Team (BSCT). Rather than a dust-up between psychology groups, the issue goes right to the heart of the US’s ability to conduct coercive interrogations and torture with the input of behavioral specialists. [a.k.a. “Dick’s Boys”]

    On December 31, 2013, the APA sent a letter to psychologist and complainant Trudy Bond, who in 2007 had filed a complaint against Leso [psychology Phd.] for his reported participation in torture at Guantanamo, that APA was not going to hold make formal charges against Leso. They said they were closing the case.

    A week ago, Spencer Ackerman at The Guardian broke the story on the APA’s decision, which caused a great deal of consternation among psychologists who have been working against torture, and who support Bond and others who have made ethics or legal complaints against Leso and other psychologists involved in torture.

    (Group Condemns APA’s Ethics Decision on Former Guantanamo Psychologist). There are a lot of wacked out judges and psychologists who helped to get the nation in the current demented state it is in.

    Strange that they don’t know better than to talk up the case of divorce or torture with either “them” or “us” in public.

    There must be a deeper reason than a lack of common sense, social skills, or ethics.

    Such as a judge or psychologist being stone nuts (Etiology of Social Dementia – 10). It gives new meaning to amicus curiae in many cases so far.

  14. The fact this judge potentially caused Sandra Chase economic damages in retaliation for not friending her in my view should be cause for a sanction by the bar association.

  15. Well, didn’t that divorce case become really convoluted. Pity the Judge who sorts that mess out. Any chance the can reconcile? Please?

  16. Having the unmitigated gall to reach out to “friend” a litigant and then compounding such lack of ethical propriety with retaliation is a crime.

    Not only should this judge be removed from the bench; but an example made under Breach of Fiduciary Duty (to the people), Retaliation/Intimidation Statues and (most importantly) Civil Rights violation via “Color of Law”.

  17. This behavior shows a remarkable lack of common sense and social skills, not to mention an ethical lapse. When I interview new hires for law enforcement agencies, I always ask if they have a Facebook page or internet friends. Then we have “The Talk” in which I explain that one has to be careful about those things when in a job involving public trust.

    About the second day on the job with the Sheriff’s Department, my youngest came in and wanted to get on the computer, saying, “I have to unfriend and block (one of her closest friends).

    She explained, “She was arrested tonight and they just processed her into the jail.” Daughter didn’t even know the charges, but knew she could not have her as a Facebook friend.

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