Social media and judicial elections
Judicial candidates are embracing social media as a campaign tool at a rapid pace. In the third annual new media survey conducted by the Conference of Court Public Information Officers earlier this year, one of the findings was that judges who run for election, competitive or retention, are more likely to use social media profile sites than judges who are not elected.How exactly are judicial candidates using social media as a campaign tool to get their message out and connect with voters? Connected examined numerous judicial candidates with a social media presence during this month's election season. It was rare to find a judicial candidate who was not using social media as part of their campaign strategy. But it appears that candidates approach the strategy a little differently. A majority of candidates had a Facebook and Twitter presence. Many had a YouTube channel, and some candidates even utilized LinkedIn and Instagram. We even ran across one judicial candidate who linked to her Pinterest account from her campaign website. The content posted on the social media platforms included things such as photographs, endorsements, judicial performance evaluation information, and news articles. We were curious to learn if candidates made use of the "social aspect" of social media. In other words, was there a dialogue occurring between the candidates and voters? Many candidates appear to use the platforms to push out information but stayed relatively quiet. However, there were some candidates (or campaign staff) who would respond to comments and posts regularly and encourage discussion. We compiled many examples of how judicial candidates have been using social media, and it can be viewed here. (We used Storify to compile the examples. If you haven't heard of Storify, it's a relatively new, pretty nifty social media tool. And it's easy to use and free.)
Judicial candidate defends Facebook giveaways
A candidate in an Indiana judicial race says there was nothing wrong with his practice of holding giveaways on his campaign Facebook page.
Barry Blackard was running against incumbent Judge Brett Niemeier and was holding drawings from among people who "like" his page or who share one of his posts with their own Facebook friends. Among the gifts being awarded were an iPad, fifth row tickets to a St. Louis Cardinals game, amusement park tickets and restaurant gift cards. Judge Niemeier argued that the giveaways had the potential to influence voting. "As soon as people are allowed to walk across the street and vote, then it's my personal belief it is inappropriate to be giving them anything," Neimeier told the Courier Press. "People should understand that judicial candidates are held to a higher standard. Our campaigns should reflect the dignity of the office."The Courier Press reported that Blackard did seek an opinion from the Indiana Election Commission before proceeding with the giveaways. He was told by Commission Director and Commission counsel that the practice did not violate Indiana election statutes. Commission counsel Dale Simmons stated, "In fact, campaigns routinely and legitimately pay people salaries to engage in electioneering activity like this (promoting candidates on the Internet or distributing and placing yard signs). The only questions that can arise in this context is whether payments made to people are a 'pretext' for vote buying. This will depend on the specific facts of a particular case." Niemeier retained his seat as the county's presiding juvenile court judge, winning slightly more than 60 percent of the vote. Blackard's campaign raised $187,192.89, compared to Niemeier's $54,884.84, reported the Courier Press.
Courts use social media in wake of Sandy
When it became clear that Sandy was going to hit the East Coast, courts were ready. Courts in Sandy's path were using social media to provide real time updates to their communities. Updates included court closing information, as well as other specific information for jurors, attorneys, and litigants. Some courts used Facebook to post updates, but the majority of information was relayed to the public via Twitter.Connected has gathered examples of how courts used social media in response to Sandy, and the compilation can be viewed here.
NCSC releases Best Practices for State Supreme Court Websites
In this day and age, it's vital for state courts to create, maintain, and improve the utility of state supreme court websites for the public and members of the media. With support from the State Justice Institute, the National Center for State Courts recently released Best Practices for State Supreme Court Websites, which provides guidelines, suggestions, and examples on creating and sustaining an effective website.
This online guide covers the following aspects of web design:
NCSC collected and reviewed the uses that state high courts currently make of their websites and identified new technological developments and applications that can assist courts in creating and disseminating information. By producing new websites, or improving their existing web presence, state courts can contribute to better public understanding and appreciation of their work.
Pennsylvania shares veterans court resources
With Veterans Day this month, the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC) used Twitter to share resources on veterans courts. The AOPC website contains a veterans courts page which includes valuable information and resources. According to the website, there are 13 veterans courts in Pennsylvania as of April 2012.
We welcome suggestions for future content and feedback on current issues. Please email Nora Sydow.