Courts, Litigants and the Digital Age: A Book Notice

Irwin Law has recently released a short (132 page) monograph by Professor Karen Eltis of the law faculty at the University of Ottawa entitled Courts, Litigants and the Digital Age: Law, Ethics and Practice. (The book is also available in an iPad version.) It’s a book that should find itself on every judge’s and every lawyer’s must-read list, because Eltis tackles some of the difficult and currently intractable-seeming issues posed by information technology, issues that will only become manageable as they are more broadly understood by all branches of the profession.

The chapter heads will give you a good sense of the book’s scope:

  • Chapter 1: Framing the Issues
  • Chapter 2: A “body of precedent written on the wind?” WIKI Courts, “LINK ROT,” and Independent Judicial Internet Research
  • Chapter 3: The Open-Court Principle, Litigant Privacy, and Electronic Court Records
  • Chapter 4: “De-anonymization” and “Re-anonymization”: Why Traditional Assumptions No Longer Apply
  • Chapter 5: “Googling” the Judge and the Perception of Impartiality: Out of Court Speech, the Internet, and Judicial Ethics
  • Chapter 6: Facebook, Social Networking, and the Appearance of Impropriety: For Judges Less Is More
  • Chapter 7: Social Networking and Cyber Research Undermining the Jury System
    Conclusion: A Final Word

Much of the time Eltis brings an ethics slant to these tech issues that lets you see them in a slightly different way and that signals that there cannot, and will not, be decisive answers; rather, as with all ethical questions, they will require continual worrying in the light of the ever-changing circumstances that, in this context, technology produces for us. (For those keen to latch on to some firmer ground, Eltis includes as an appendix a 2009 memorandum sent to Chief Judges of United States Courts, “Internet Material in Judicial Opinions and Orders. Action Required.”)

Comments are closed.