Justice caught in Facebook flap

Are cyber friendships the new grounds of courtroom conflict of interest?


A Cumberland County district judge - who is running for election to county court in November - has recused himself from a trial of a man allegedly involved in an armed standoff with police, after it was revealed that he was Facebook friends with the defendant.

Thomas Placey stepped aside last month after he had continued a hearing for Barry Horn Jr., who is accused in a standoff with police outside of Harrisburg in April, according to the Patriot-News of Harrisburg. 

Horn's lawyer, Paul Orr, told the newspaper he filed a request earlier this week because his client asked him to.

Orr said some on-line postings since the Facebook issue became public had suggested Placey would be biased in Horn's favor.

"He (Horn) just doesn't feel comfortable, that (Placey) will be damned if he does and damned if he doesn't," Orr said. "I have great faith that District Judge Placey would listen to it impartially, but the defendant has the decision on that. Barry didn't want to see (Placey) put through any more of that."

But the standoff incident wasn't the first time Horn - a former deputy coroner - appeared before Placey.

In May, Placey bound over for trial a roadrage case in which Placey was a defendant. 

Placey in an e-mail response to The Patriot-News confirmed that he agreed to recuse himself from the case after receiving a faxed letter Wednesday from Orr. Placey did not elaborate on why he agreed to Orr's request.

Orr, who said he too was a former Facebook friend of Placey,  believes Placey and Horn are likely no longer Facebook friends either.


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