The internet is a powerful research tool, but in the hands of a judge, its use poses serious ethical conundrums that are best avoided, warns a new American Bar Association opinion.

The ABA’s Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility, which develops and interprets ethics standards for lawyers and the judiciary, issued the opinion Friday. While internet information may be educational or useful, the ABA said, there are risks because internet information can be “biased, unreliable, or false.” When making decisions, judges should not rely on facts found via internet research that are not subject to the adversarial process, the guidance adds.

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