Judges and Social Media


In the Discussion Paper “The Use of Social Media by Canadian Judicial Officers“, its stated that 48 per cent of Canadian judicial officers visit or contribute to social media sites (such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and blogs). The Paper goes on to state that:

In regard to professional interactions with a lawyer who is a social networking contact, 33 per cent of judicial officers who reported social media use believe that it would be acceptable for a “LinkedIn contact” to appear before him/her… However, a small, yet clear, distinction is made if the lawyer is a “Facebook friend,” in which case only 23 per cent of judicial officers find it acceptable for the lawyer to appear before him/her…

The statistic of 48% seems low to me. Some judges are misreporting. It is likely that almost all judges have visited a social media site at one time or another since becoming a judge.

Given the proliferation of social media, how should judges be directed to use it? Should they be silent observers? Does ascending to the bench mean taking an oath of social media celibacy? Or, is it a use at your own discretion, “buyer beware” kind of thing? Should judges be encouraged to engage with the public through it?

Regardless of your position on social media use, it cannot be denied that social media has influenced the way stories are told. As judicial writing is another form of storytelling, it must also be asked, how has the proliferation of social media impacted judicial writing? For example, in a British family law decision, Lancashire County Council v M, a judge used emojis to better express his ruling to the young children involved.

I for one think emoji use is terrific. Very few people live in the “world of words” that lawyers and judges inhabit. And emojis and other features of social media provide new tools for judges to express ideas and opinions.

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