Social Media Roundtable Discussion

by Jim Drennan

  • Should judges Twitter during a trial?
  • Should judges send Facebook messages to “friends” who are in trial with them?
  • Do jurors use social media?
  • Should judicial educators provide programs on social media use?

In the lively “Social Media” roundtable discussion in San Antonio, a group of about 20 judicial educators answered “No”, “No”, “Yes” and “Yes” to the above questions.  While the judges in the discussion suggested that many of their colleagues do not use social media, all agreed that to be effective in controlling a trial, judges need to know about them, and that judicial education is the best way to inform judges and court personnel about how to do that.

At its most fundamental level, social media are simply a means to an end; the end of courts remains to do justice in an open, transparent, and fair manner. But as was true with the advent of the printing press, radio, television, computers, and the Internet, the way courts do that is constantly changing. This discussion emphasized the need for judicial education to stay current and relevant. Educators shared strategies for doing that and discussed the different needs judges have from others who work in the courts.
Finally, the group noted that social media can play an important role in improving public knowledge of and confidence in the courts, and left with a renewed interest in addressing that issue in their local and national education programs.
You should have been there.   It was fun and informative.

Jim Drennan is director of the North Carolina Judicial College at the UNC School of Government.  He teaches and advises on court administration issues, judicial ethics and fairness, criminal sentencing, and judicial leadership as well as being responsible for the School’s educational programs for clerks of superior court and court administrators.