U.S. Conference of Court Public Information Officers Report on Social Media and the Courts
"The Conference of Court Public Information Officers report on new media and the courts finds that more than one-third of state court judges and magistrates responding to a survey use social media profile sites like Facebook, while less than 10 percent of courts as institutions use social media for public outreach and communication. After a year of study and online collaboration, the report reveals a judicial branch that clearly recognizes the importance of understanding new media but is proceeding cautiously with concerns about effects on ethics, court proceedings and the ability to support public understanding of the courts. "The study looked at social networking tools, microblogging (Twitter), smart phones, blogs, RSS feeds, social bookmarking sites, video sharing and wikis.
"The report predicts that in the coming years, courts will re-examine state codes of conduct for judges and judicial employees, model jury instructions, rules on cameras in the courtroom and other areas. It makes other predictions and also recommends further research and specific steps for the judicial community to continue to respond productively to new media."
For the survey included in the study, 16,000 individuals in the court community were invited to fill out an online questionnaire between June 16 and 25, 2010. Federal judges were not included in the distribution. About 810 respondents completed the entire survey while another 789 submitted partially completed surveys.
Among the results:
- Nearly half of judges (47.8 percent) disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement 'Judges can use social media profile sites, such as Facebook, in their professional lives without compromising professional conduct codes of ethics.'
- Judges appear to be more comfortable with using these sites in their personal lives,with 34.3 percent disagreeing or strongly disagreeing with the statement 'Judges canuse social media profile sites, such as Facebook, in their personal lives without compromising professional conduct codes of ethics.'
- More than half (56 percent) of judges report routine juror instructions that include some component about new media use during the trial.
- A smaller proportion of judges than might be expected (9.8 percent) reported witnessing jurors using social media profile sites, microblogging sites, or smart phones, tablets or notebooks in the courtroom.
- Impartiality of Juries Threatened by Web? (October 22, 2009): "Donald Findlay QC, one of Scotland's top criminal lawyers, has warned that the impartiality of the jury system is at risk due to jurors using internet search engines and has warned that the Government cannot continue with its 'ostrich-like' attitude to the problem (...) "
- Should Twitter in the Courtroom Be Illegal? (November 11, 2009): "A U.S. federal court in the state of Georgia has ruled that Rule 53 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure prohibits 'tweeting' from the courtroom ..."
- More Jurors Get Into Trouble for Going on the Net (December 13, 2009): "Last week, a Maryland appeals court upended a first-degree murder conviction because a juror consulted Wikipedia for trial information. Earlier this year, the appeals judges erased a conviction for three counts of assault because a juror did cyberspace research and shared the findings with the rest of the jury. In a third recent trial, a juror's admission to using his laptop for off-limits information jeopardized an attempted-murder trial. On Friday, lawyers for Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon asked for a new trial in part because five of the jurors who convicted her of embezzlement Dec. 1 were communicating among themselves on Facebook during the deliberations period - and at least one of them received an outsider's online opinion of what the verdict should be. "
- Should Judges Join Facebook? (January 12, 2010): "In yesterday's Montreal Gazette, an article about whether Canadian judges should be on the popular social networking site Facebook: 'Amid escalating debate in the U.S. about judicial antics online, the Canadian Judicial Council has turned its attention to whether there should be some ground rules for judges who want to join Facebook and other social networking sites (...) While there are no known cases of Canadian judges on Facebook, participation in the U.S. has reached a level that prompted the Florida judicial ethics committee to issue an edict last month that judges and lawyers should not be Facebook 'friends,' to avoid appearance of conflict in the event they end up in the same courtroom (...)' "
- U.S. Federal Courts Tell Jurors Twitter, Facebook and Texting Verboten (February 9, 2010): "Wired Magazine is reporting that the Judicial Conference of the United States, the body that develops policy for federal courts in that country, has proposed new model jury instructions that explicitly ban the use of applications like Facebook and Twitter ..."
- Social Media Use by Government and Courts (March 16, 2010): "a short and selective list of articles, resources and sites ... helpful in explaining the use of social media by courts" (US)