A Minnesota judge has been publicly reprimanded by a standards board for commenting on active cases on his Facebook page.
According to a ruling of the Minnesota Board of Judicial Standards (MBJS), Judge Edward Bearse made comments on several cases on his social media account mistakenly thinking only his family and friends could see them, but the posts were in fact public.
In one trial of a woman charged with engaging in sex trafficking, a posting by Judge Bearse on Sept. 8 – the opening day of the trial – came to the attention of the defense after she had been convicted, and it ultimately led to a new trial for the defendant.
He had posted:
"Some things I guess will never change. I just love doing the stress of jury trials. In a Felony trial now State prosecuting a pimp. Cases are always difficult because the women (as in this case also) will not cooperate. We will see what the 12 citizens in the jury box do."
Judge Bearse was appointed to the 10th Judicial District bench in 1983, retiring in 2006 before he was then appointed and assigned to serve as a Senior Judge statewide.
In September, Judge Bearse recused himself from a senior felony trial after a post he made about the case in August came to the attention of another judge, who passed it to the 10th District's Chief Judge.
"Now we are in chaos because defendant has to hire a new lawyer who will most likely want to start over and a very vulnerable woman will have to spend another day on the witness stand. . . . I was so angry that on the way home I stopped to see our District Administrator and told him, “Michael, you are going to have to just listen to me bitch for awhile.” . . . [W]e know the new lawyer (probably quite justifiably) will be asking for another continuance. Terrible day!!!"
The board found he had made several other postings about cases and a couple of negative remarks about defendants on his page.
In his defense, Bearse told the board he'd been on Facebook for two years and wasn't familiar with its privacy settings, expressing remorse to the board, and saying he realizes he shouldn't have even shared the posts with friends.
According to MPR, the public reprimand carries no fine and is "one step above a private admonishment," but is less serious than being referred to the Supreme Court for possible removal from office.