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New Media & the Courts Resources


Court changes prompt need for social media
Benita Jones, public information officer

Several pivotal changes taking place at the Kansas City Missouri Municipal Court ultimately led to another big change: the way the Court communicates with the public and its employees. In September, the Court started using social media for the first time by launching a Facebook page and two instructional videos. Since the launch, the Court has regularly posted information, pictures and videos about the specialty courts, courthouse employees, the progress of the Court’s renovation project, and general court information.

The response has been positive. Facebook users are sharing Municipal Court posts to their individual pages, and the videos, which are also on the City’s YouTube channel, have had close to 2,000 views.

“We are very excited about the success of our Facebook page and our videos,” said Court Administrator Megan Pfannenstiel. “They have really helped us communicate the message and accomplishments of the Court and to educate the public about the role of the judiciary.” The Kansas City Municipal Court processes close to 300,000 cases a year, has its own probation department,  and several specialty courts—Drug Court, Veteran’s Treatment Court, Mental Health Court, Domestic Violence Court, Housing Court and Truancy Court.  Even though the Court was a leader in adopting a paperless case management system in 2011, it continued using traditional communication methods -- press releases, newsletters and brochures – to promote its message, not social media.

But this year, with the Court facing several changes that required a more direct and immediate means of communication with the public, social media made sense. Changes included: Missouri required its municipal courts to set up installment payment plans for court fines; the Kansas City Municipal Court kicked-off a long-awaited courthouse renovation project; one-third of its judges retired and new judges replaced them. The City of Kansas City and the Kansas City Police Department also already had a strong social media presence and were eager to help other City departments establish their own.

LinkedIn pays the price for email overload


In 2013 LinkedIn was hit with a class action lawsuit (Perkins v. LinkedIn Corporation) after network users complained the company was sending too many emails about adding connections (i.e. “Hi, I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn”). This month the social media network for professionals and businesses sent an e-mail to users announcing they have agreed to settle out of court for $13 million. Read more details.

New curriculum helps judges prevent Internet-related juror misconduct

NCSC’s Center for Jury Studies has developed a new curriculum designed to teach trial judges about juror use of new media, including how to effectively discourage jurors from using these technologies inappropriately during trial and how to respond to allegations of Internet-related juror misconduct. The intended audience is trial judges who sit in courts with jury trial jurisdiction. Appellate court judges may also benefit from the material presented. The curriculum consists of three 30-minute modules titled 1) “Juror and Jury Use of New Media: What Do We Know?”; 2) “An Ounce of Prevention”; and 3) “When Prevention Fails.”

Drinking, driving, and recording it live

Earlier this month, Whitney Beall, 23, was allegedly driving drunk and broadcasting it live on Periscope, a social media network that allows users to video-record their actions anywhere in the world. Lakeland, Fla. 911 police dispatchers received calls from Periscope users who had been invited by Beall to follow her as she went barhopping. According to police reports, two viewers also sent her text messages urging her to pull over before she killed herself or someone else. No court date has been set, but Beall’s lawyer said he will enter a not guilty plea on her behalf. Read the full story.

Social media tip of the month—Content is key in a social media society

We welcome suggestions for future content and feedback on current issues.
Please e-mail Deirdre Roesch.