♫ Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song
And I’ll try not to sing out of key
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends…♫
On Thursday April 14 between 1-3 pm pacific time, a world-first happened. Chief Judge Crabtree of the British Columbia Provincial Court hosted a Twitter Town Hall. Ian Mulgrew of the Vancouver Sun wrote about it: “Chief Judge hashes issues out on Twitter for first time.” The Canadian Bar Association – BC Branch storified it and you can read the tweeted questions and answers here.
With a bit of humour (allusions to the TV Show Night Court were made) along with quoting music lyrics, the Chief Judge did something that no other judge or court has done: he answered questions from lawyers, law students and the public on social media in real time.
There are several remarkable features about this event. One is the openness that it symbolized along with the importance of being transparent to the public. The second is that a social media platform such as Twitter (with its 140 character limit) could be used quite successfully by the Judge to engage in a lively and responsive dialogue. As Colin LaChance noted in his Slaw post in advance of the Twitter Town Hall, the Court via social media is delivering “useful and often fascinating content in a very human voice.” The third is that an institution such as the Provincial Court has indicated that it is open to change and moving forward in new and interesting ways.
Personally I believe that these innovations help make the Court, law and legal resolution a bit less imposing and formidable. The Chief Judge, while being totally professional, showed that he is also approachable and real. This Town Hall has helped put a real human face on the Court . That is the power of social media and I for one am proud that it happened here first. I am looking forward to further innovations from the Court as it seeks ways to improve access to justice. As Chief Judge Crabtree stated, the Court will get by with a little help from its friends.