A Philadelphia judge has ruled that his Facebook friendship with state Rep. Cherelle Parker is not grounds for him to recuse himself from her drunken-driving case.
The State Attorney General’s Office asked Municipal Court Judge Charles Hayden to step aside from the proceedings after the pair’s social media connection came to light in the media. In a motion filed last week, the Commonwealth wrote that the relationship “creates an appearance of impropriety and undermines public confidence in the judiciary.”
In his denial of that request, which was filed Monday, Hayden contends that the Attorney General’s Office did not provide enough evidence to prove that the Facebook friendship shows “bias, prejudice or unfairness.” Approving the state’s motion, he said, could have set a messy precedent.
“It could mean that if anyone already has been convicted by [the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office] who was unknowingly a ‘Facebook friend’ at the time of their conviction that person could be subject to getting their conviction overturned,” writes Hayden. “Similarly, Judges like myself would have to be recused from hearing any case involving any of the 1,316 people on my Facebook Account.”
Attorney Joseph Kelly, who is representing Parker, has said that Facebook friendships between elected officials in Philadelphia are common and do not necessarily present a potential conflict of interest.
An official with the Attorney General’s office said Monday that an appeal of Hayden’s decision will be filed in the “next few days.”
The Commonwealth is prosecuting the case after Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams recused his office because of his friendship with Parker.
On April 30, Philadelphia police pulled over Parker around midnight in Germantown after they allegedly spotted her driving the wrong way down a one way stretch of Haines Street. Parker’s blood-alcohol-level that night was .16, according to police paperwork from the incident.
Hayden ruled in November to suppress all evidence in the case after he determined that police testimony lacked credibility. In its motion, the Commonwealth also argued that Hayden should reverse that decision, saying that his ruling was based on “alleged facts not contained in the record.”
Hayden denied that request on Nov. 15.
The Commonwealth can still appeal Hayden’s ruling to supress all evidence in the case.
Parker, a Democrat, represents Pennsylvania’s 200th Legislative District, which includes sections of the Mt. Airy, Chestnut Hill and Roxborough neighborhoods in Philadelphia.