Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Judges and Social Networking Sites

There is a lot of attention paid to the impact of jurors, reporters and members of the public using social networking technologies in the courtroom.

There is not as much material on the ethics of judges using the same tools such as Facebook or Twitter.

Michael Crowell of the School of Government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has written a paper on Judicial Ethics and Social Networking Sites that looks at the issue:
"For some time now state bar regulatory agencies have been addressing the effect of electronic communication on traditional ethical rules for lawyers ― the extent to which law firm websites constitute advertising, whether e-mail inquiries establish an attorney/client relationship, and so on. Likewise, judges hearing cases have faced new legal issues involving electronic discovery and searches of computers. Judges are becoming familiar, too, with problems of jurors communicating with the outside world and conducting their own research via their Blackberries, smart phones and other devices."

"Compared to the information available on those other electronic communication issues, there is relatively little reference material for judges concerning their own social networking and the Code of Judicial Conduct. The purpose of this paper is to share some information addressing questions of judges’ personal use of social networks."
The paper deals with the situation in the United States.

Participation in social networks by judges in the U.S. has reached a level that prompted the Florida judicial ethics committee to issue an edict in 2009 that judges and lawyers should not be Facebook 'friends,' to avoid appearance of conflict in the event they end up in the same courtroom. Other US state committees on judicial ethics have also taken positions warning judges about the perils of networking.

The Canadian Judicial Council has not yet drafted rules for Canadian judges but it appears to be monitoring the situation south of the border. It has produced a number of recent publications on IT security but no definite guidelines about judges and social networks seem to exist at the moment.

The Council is made up of 39 members and is chaired by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, the Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin.

Council membership consists of the chief justices, associate chief justices, and some senior judges from provincial and federal superior courts across the country.

The federal Parliament created the Council in 1971 to promote efficiency, uniformity, and accountability, and to improve the quality of judicial service in all superior courts of Canada.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 9:33 pm

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