The judge who smacked California-based Paul Evert’s RV Country with a $4.5 million defamation verdict has disqualified himself from the case after he admitted that he was Facebook friends with one of the lawyers who prevailed in the Fresno County Superior Court civil trial.

The Fresno Bee reported that Judge Jeffrey Hamilton’s decision to give up the case appears to follow state judicial ethics guidelines. It also puts the verdict in question because he had not signed the final judgment, and could give rise to Evert and his employees getting a new trial.

Hamilton declined to comment Tuesday (March 11), citing judicial ethics.

But in the court declaration where he disqualifies himself from the case, he says he told both sides on the first day of the trial in May that he is a friend of Jeff Hammerschmidt, one of the plaintiff’s attorneys.

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