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Twitter Unlocking Courtroom Doors?

by Joseph Raczynski

For a seemingly innocuous 140 characters, Twitter continues to rouse evocative legal discourse.


The newest twist for Twitter consists of judges grappling with the question of what place, if any, Twitter has in the courtroom.  According to a recent article in Time, the United States Supreme Court has yet to rule on Twitter’s use in the courtroom.  The lower courts are divided about its role; some tolerate tweets by attorneys during criminal proceedings, while others forbid such activity altogether.

 

Helping to further spark the discussion, recently there was much hubbub about the comedian Steve Martin (@STEVEMARTINTOGO) who, while on jury duty, was tweeting about his experiences.  He quipped multiple times, tweeting:

 

REPORT FROM JURY DUTY: Lunch break. Discussing case with news media gives me chance to promote my book.

 

REPORT FROM JURY DUDY [sic]: Defendant running for exit. Not to escape, but out of disgust. Judge wearing NOTHING under his robes. We are adjourned until tomorrow.

 

FINAL REPORT FROM JURY DUTY: Defendant sentenced to death. Feeling bad. Wait…call from REAL JURORS OF BEVERLY HILLS. WORTH IT!

 

Technology, like Twitter use in the courtroom, poses an interesting dilemma.  It is a debate as aged as the legal system itself, which is directed at openness, fairness, and access to the justice system.  How unrestricted do we want our legal system to be?  What information is appropriate to be disclosed to the mass public?  Looking at the Founding Fathers for guidance on the breadth of access to public information, perhaps we have a glimpse in to their intent.  The hallowed Independence Hall in Philadelphia originally had been built on the belief that there must be open trials, and as such, no doors were placed on the courtroom.  Therefore, is it not plausible to argue that the use of Twitter in courts is consistent with the free flow of information our forefathers had intended in our “open” court system?

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