October 2013

Follow Us on Twitter

New Media & the Courts Resources


Courts and QR Codes

It is hard to escape the cryptic black and white boxes popping up everywhere, including in publications; on packaging and instruction sheets; on posters and banners; and in every type of retail establishment to name a few. Now they may be coming to a court near you. At least two state courts and a federal bankruptcy court currently are using QR codes.

Quick Response (QR) coding is a type of two-dimensional barcode originally developed in 1994 to enhance traditional bar codes. The matrix codes expand the capacity of the traditional one-dimensional bar codes containing about 20 alphanumeric characters to a capacity of more than 7,000. The QR codes also are quickly and easily read by most cell phones.

Washington, DC Courts Communications Assistant, Anita Jarman, explains their court's approach to utilizing QR codes, “The DC Courts’ QR codes were implemented as another way of appealing to the audience of those who frequently use their mobile or tablet devices. The codes are linked to the Courts’ website and blog-formatted newsletter, DC Courts News. Primarily displayed on posters and flyers that can be seen at neighborhood festivals and community events throughout DC, we also find them helpful for court employees to include in their e-mail signature block. Although we have not received any direct feedback from our target audience, the display of our QR codes allows us not only to brand the Courts’ websites but also introduces the Courts to a growing demographic of those who frequently use mobile/tablet applications. The concept of scanning a code and immediately being directed to an official website or news source ultimately enhances awareness of the DC Courts and the programs and services we provide.”

The Illinois Nineteenth Circuit Court has begun using the codes in its lobby displays and for juror surveys. The codes included in the displays link to the court’s website as well as links to additional information from the internet. The court also has added QR codes to its juror ‘thank you’ letters that directs jurors to the court’s online juror survey.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Central District of California, has been piloting the use of QR codes as an alternative method for attorneys and others to quickly download and view judges’ calendars, reported the Court Technology Bulletin. That court is already exploring other uses for the codes as a result of the efficiencies their use has generated. The efficiencies have included staff time, printing costs, and ease of access to information.

As courts continue to look for ways to increase transparency and enhance ease of access, we expect QR codes will become more popular as court public information tools.

By Karen Salaz
District Administrator, 19th Judicial District, Colorado

Justices from 12 midwest states consider implications of evolving technology on the courts

What are the practical and legal limits of privacy in an age when nano-cameras can be embedded in the wall paint of a building and Google knows everywhere you have been not just in cyberspace, but in some cases the real world?

This was among the many questions considered by about 50 justices and others from Supreme Courts across the Midwest in the first Conference of Midwest Justices held Oct. 17-18 in Madison, Wisconsin.

New media wasn't the only topic, but it occupied a prominent place on the agenda for the attendees who hailed from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

"Journalists have seen their role change profoundly over the last decade," said Wisconsin Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson. "The judiciary continues to try to understand what this means and to develop ways to work with these changes. Simply put, the days of one-way communication between speaker and listener (or reader) are past. Today, the media are engaged in a conversation -- a give-and-take that is candid, sometimes valuable and always unpredictable. Judges and court administrators are frequently asked to take part in this conversation, and we must decide when and how to do so. Our conference planning committee recognized the significance of these difficult questions, and of their impact upon the courts, and incorporated valuable discussion and educational sessions into our 2013 Midwest conference."

Dr. Gary Marchant, Lincoln Professor of Emerging Technologies, Law and Ethics at Arizona State University, presented "New Surveillance Technologies and the Changing Face of Technology," offering an overview of a wide array of current and emerging devices and applications that are challenging the delicate balance between privacy and accessibility, including wireless communication, GPS location, nanotechnology, biometrics, social media, and domestic drones.

Taken together, Prof. Marchant said these technologies have complicated longstanding questions surrounding the constitutional right to privacy and have raised new issues about how to properly measure the harm and calculate damages from privacy violations.

Also at the conference:

• "Ethics, Technology, Friends, Facebook and Other Lurking Dangers," with an introduction by Justice Wilhelmina M. Wright of the Minnesota Supreme Court.

• "Surfin' USA: Judges and the Ethics of Internet Research," in which a series of scenarios were presented by Professor Elizabeth Thornburg of the SMU School of Law, and the justices discussed the ethical implications and appropriate conduct.

• "What's a Little Ethics Between Friends, Family and Facebook," where SMU Law School Provost Linda S. Eads led a panel discussion with several justices about how to approach the use of Facebook. Perspectives ranged from cautious, limited personal use to using only during judicial campaigns to "conscientious objectors" who see any Facebooking by judges as frivolous and fraught with peril.

• "Relationships With the Media and the Public" was a panel discussion led by Iowa State Court Administrator David K. Boyd with Chief Justice Mary Russell of the Missouri Supreme Court; Wisconsin Supreme Court Public Information Officer Amanda Todd, and Chris Davey, director of public information for the Ohio Supreme Court. The panel discussed how courts are responding to the decline in media coverage of the judicial system and how technology is effecting rules on cameras in the courtroom and other issues.

By Chris Davey
Director of Public Information, Supreme Court of Ohio

Australia's Supreme Court of Victoria launches new social media initiative

The Supreme Court of Victoria has announced its ambitous plan to launch several new technology initatiatives. In addition to becoming fully paperless by 2016, the Court plans to recruit retired judges to blog for the court.

"There is a wonderful opportunity there with our retired judges, some are great communicators, highly intellectual individuals, who based on their experience, would be able to speak generally to the community on a blog, describing what goes on in a sentence, the factors that a case may have to include, all of those sorts of things, ultimately it's about educating the community in all forms that we can," explained Hon. Marilyn Warren, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria.

The Supreme Court is also developing an interactive website to be the centrepiece of the court’s communication with the public. The community would be able to watch Video on Demand, download judgment summaries and judgments, leave comments on the Supreme Court News website, and participate in an Internet Forum.The Court also just launched a Facebook page last week and already has a Twitter feed with nearly 2500 followers. The Court also plans to look at other opportunities such as LinkedIn.

"It's about openness so the community can see and know what we do in the courts, it's also a way for the courts to make sure that the community are appropriately informed of what happens in court, the reality about the cases, not the story in the media that the editors want to put out, the community can read that, but they should know the actual facts," says Warren.

Connected is curious if any state courts will start using retired judges to blog for the court. If this is on the horizon for your court, let us know. Who will be the first?

Connected Courts

Court News Ohio explores haunted courthouses across the state

Haunted courthouses? This month Court News Ohio takes a look at some of the unexplained spooky sights, sounds, and ghost stories from courthouses across Ohio. The story includes a video and is a fun Halloween read.

Court News Ohio is a service of the Supreme Court of Ohio and Ohio Government Telecommunications.

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