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When you think of people who use Twitter, what kind of jobs do you envision these people having? Are they a business person, maybe information technology, but have you ever considered a judge using social media outlets such as Twitter? It just doesn’t sound right. We have these pre-conceived ideas that all judges are stuffy and lack personality, so as a result we can imagine them to have an outlet that allows you to project personality. Meet the exception- Justice Don Willett of the Texas Supreme Court.
Willett is probably is the most active and popular judges on Twitter, having posted 12,800 tweets since he joined the site in 2009.While his tweets consist of family , sports and jokes, it begs these two questions: Is tweeting by judges is a problem? and Should it, or any social media use be allowed?
According to an article on abovethelaw.com, founder and managing editor of the site David Lat, points out that Willett’s main reason behind his use of social media is to stay connected to the voters. This can be an effective approach if executed with caution. One of multiple problems that could come about include misinterpretation of tweets/posts; people thinking he meant something different than he intended and vice versa. Despite this risk, this practice is not frowned upon by those within the legal realm. In a phone interview with NY Times, Willett noted that the ethical guidelines of the American Bar Association actually approve “judicious” use of social media in elections as “a valuable tool for public outreach.”
To find out Lat’s full thoughts one the subject you can read the entire article here.
So what do you think- Is tweeting by judges a problem? Should they be allowed to engage in social media? Why or Why not?
My first thought is that judges should not be on twitter!! But if the tweets are appropriate then I think it's ok. Judges are people too. But there are strict ethical guidelines, so if I was a judge I'd be careful.
For judges who are elected, it makes sense to use social media to reach out to their constituents. I am not yet ready to agree that social media would be appropriate for a judge's judicial functions, but I will not rule it out. There may one day be a valid reason, but I do not see it now.