The ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility has issued a new opinion addressing whether a judge can conduct online research to find out more about the facts of a case being litigated before them. The opinion explains that
-- judges can conduct legal research online for cases not cited by the parties.
-- judges can can go online for facts that are subject to judicial notice because they are generally known and not subject to reasonable dispute
-- BUT using the internet to look for facts concerning the actual parties in a case is generally banned by the ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct. The facts are the facts that will need to be adjudicated in the proceeding, including who did what, where, when, how, and with what motive or intent.
The ABA Journal has more on the story here. You can read the full opinion here.
UPDATE (1/18/18): Legal Ethics in Motion has a comment here.