Recent guidance from the UK’s Senior Presiding Judge and the Senior President of Tribunals fired a warning shot over the bows of judges who blog, a term which they helpfully define as being “derived from the term ‘web log'”. The inclusion of the definition somehow reminds me of all those relatively elderly lawyers who still refer to data as being provided “on CD”, as if that reference from circa 2005 were another way of saying “electronically”. Both examples come across as rather strained attempts to be seen to be down wit da kidz.
My own reaction was a rather sarcastic tweet:
We should perhaps be pleased to discover that the senior judges know what a “blog” is. Next year “Twitter”, and “Facebook” by 2014
Lengthier and more serious comment followed from English commentators such as Adam Wagner and ObiterJ. Reaction from the US illustrated as much as anything the sheer diversity of the US judiciary, ranging from stories of idiots who should plainly never have been given judicial office through to serious discussion about both ethical restrictions and the judicial duty to “initiate and participate in activities for the purpose of promoting public understanding of and confidence in the administration of justice”.
The thoughtful IT-cross-legal commentator The IT Countrey Justice has now provided us with a very readable comparative study of judicial attitudes to public comment by judges across a range of jurisdictions with the title Social Media and the Judiciary.
So far as I am concerned, the UK judicial advice, if it was necessary at all, got its emphasis wrong. It could have achieved the same effect by promoting the benefits of judicial comment with a warning rider about the risks. That would have served the same purpose without attracting any adverse comment.
If the establishment has time to write guff like this, and the judges have time to read it, perhaps they could focus instead on the need for judges to understand electronic disclosure and the role which judges should be playing in keeping it under control.