April 2013    

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New Media & the Courts Resources










AOCs and high courts using social media: an update

Just how many state court systems are using social media? This information was recently updated and the latest information is now available.

At least 25 administrative offices of the courts or high courts are using at least one social media platform. Twenty-three are on Twitter, nine are on Facebook, nine have YouTube channels, and three have Flickr photostreams.

Links to these state court social media sites are available here.

Oregon juror jailed for texting during trial

A 26-year-old Oregon juror was held in contempt on April 18th and sentenced to jail for texting during trial. Benjamin Kohler of Salem was selected to serve on a criminal jury trial hearing an armed robbery case. Judge Dennis Graves instructed the jury that the use of cell phones was prohibited during the court proceeding. However, while the lights of the courtroom were dimmed to watch a video recording of the defendant’s statement, Judge Graves noticed a light reflecting on Mr. Kohler’s chest. Mr. Kohler admitted to texting back and forth with his girlfriend. Mr. Kohler was transported to the Marion County jail to serve a two-day sentence. An alternate juror replaced Mr. Kohler. 

Judge Graves said in a press release that he hoped Kohler’s time in jail would serve as a lesson to all future jurors, reported the Statesman Journal. “Every juror has the responsibility to devote his entire attention to the witnesses and evidence being presented,” Graves said. “In this case, Mr. Kohler failed to meet his obligations and failed to honor the direction of this court. My hope is that he will use his time in jail to reflect upon his behavior."

Courts on Yelp

Do you Yelp? If so, you may have noticed courts starting to appear on the popular social media site that allows its users to review local businesses and services.

Founded in 2004 to help users find things like great restaurants, reliable mechanics, and bed bug-free hotels, Yelp has grown to include categories such as public services and government. Yelp had 86 million unique monthly visitors in the fourth quarter of 2012, and users had submitted over 36 million local reviews.

What are people saying about courts? Many of the reviews relate to jury duty and offer tips to other jurors such as what to wear and bring to court, and where to eat. There are reviews of the customer service, court websites, parking, and court security. Yelp users also review everything under the sun as it relates to the court facilites themselves - everything from quirks with the elevators, temperature of the courtrooms, availability of wi-fi, and even the quality of the toilet paper in the court restrooms. We found that virtually all courthouses in large cities have a Yelp page with reviews, and some examples include the San Francisco Superior Court, New York City Criminal Court, Municipal Court of Seattle, Hawaii's First Circuit Court, Travis County Courthouse, D.C.'s Moultrie Courthouse, and the Miami-Dade Courthouse.

Join us for a live webcast on May 2nd

Join NCSC's Research Division as it hosts a live video webcast featuring a lecture by Dr. Pamela Schulz­ called "Courts, Public Confidence and Infotainment: Looking through a Media and Language Lens."

Dr. Schulz is noted for her ability to use sophisticated social science theories of communication as the basis for providing those who work in the courts with new insights. Dr. Schulz is also the author of Courts and Judges on Trial: Analyzing and Managing the Discourses of Disapproval, published in 2010. Her work has been published in a number of international journals. She has more than 20 years of experience in specialist communications management, including service as a court authority public relations manager. Her innovative perspective on how courts should communicate with the public is highly influential within the Australian judiciary and internationally. She has a Doctorate in Communications from the University of South Australia.

The event is on May 2nd at 12:00pm ET. You may join the webcast by visiting www.ncsc.org/brownbag on the day of the webcast.

Connected Courts

Michigan launches latest video in Court Stories series

The Michigan Supreme Court Office of Public Information recently released the second video in its new online video series. Court Stories debuted on the "Michigan Courts" YouTube channel and on the court's website last December, and the focus of the series is to tell the "everyday stories of Michigan courts - and the people they serve," explained the press release announcing the new series.

The latest video, “Novi District Court: Volunteers Are Priceless” shows how the 52-1 District Court in Novi staffs a customer service desk with volunteers, including retirees, who help visitors navigate the court. Volunteers also assist court staff, freeing employees for other duties, and student volunteers in the probation department get practical experience in the criminal justice system as a basis for future careers. 

We welcome suggestions for future content and feedback on current issues.
Please email Nora Sydow.