9 Investigates Seminole judge accused of letting Facebook sway her ruling

Updated:

Loading
SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. —

A Seminole County woman said she filed a formal complaint against Seminole Circuit Judge Linda Schoonover over what she calls an unfair ruling in her divorce case.

And Channel 9 is investigating allegations Schoonover has done the same in the past.

In one case, Schoonover might have really been friends with the woman, WFTV's Kathi Belich found, but the judge is also accused of never disclosing any of that information, friends or not.

The appeals court ruled that judges are not allowed to "friend" lawyers on Facebook, so they really shouldn't be "friending" litigants, either.

Court records show Schoonover tried to "friend" Sandy Chace on Facebook last year while the judge was handling Chace's divorce case.

Chace did not accept the friend request and her lawyer asked Schoonover to recuse herself from the case, but Schoonover refused.

Chace went to the Fifth District Court of Appeals, in Daytona Beach, and won. The higher court said the judge put Chace between a rock and a hard place. 

"If she communicates with the judge outside of the legal process, that violates a rule," said Associate Professor Susan Bendlin, of Barry University. "But if she doesn't communicate and she refuses to friend the judge, then she's going to offend the judge."

Channel 9 went to Seminole County to talk with Schoonover about it, but her courtroom was dark.

Chace said after she snubbed the judge on Facebook, the judge saddled her with all the couples' debt and alimony payments in the divorce.

Before that case, however, Schoonover was accused of Facebooking with Lake Mary City Commissioner Jo Ann Lucarelli while handling Lucarelli's divorce case.

Documents show Lucarelli posted, "We can only pray justice comes swiftly" after a derogatory remark her husband believes was about him.

Records show Schoonover replied, "Yep, justice come swiftly."

Lucrelli's husband heard about it, but in his case, the judge granted his motion and stepped aside.