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New Media & the Courts Resources


Maryland Campaign Conduct Committee releases decision on Facebook complaint

The Maryland Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee (MDJCCC) recently issued an opinion in response to a complaint filed against Ingrid Turner, a candidate for judge of the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County. The complaint claims that Turner’s Facebook page includes photographs of Administrative Judge Sheila T. Tillerson Adams and other judges that give the impression that the judges are endorsing the campaign of Ingrid Turner. Ultimately, the decision found that “Ms. Turner did not violate the Standards of the Maryland Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee.” The Committee concluded that “the photographs in question should not mislead the viewer that persons shown in the photographs endorsed Ms. Turner’s judicial campaign and that, as a consequence, the candidate did not falsely represent or mislead within the meaning of MDJCCC’s standards."

Meet Gina, L.A. Court’s virtual traffic assistant

Los Angeles Superior Court’s new traffic assistant, Gina, has long brown hair, a peachy complexion and wears a dark, purple jacket. The unique characteristic about Gina is that she’s not human, she’s an avatar. Gina, who speaks six languages, guides users through the process of paying parking tickets. The avatar idea is the brainchild of Sherri Carter, who was appointed Court Executive Officer and Clerk of Court of Los Angeles Superior Court in 2013. Presiding Judge Carolyn Kuhl supported Carter's proposal. “People were waiting an average of 3½ hours for their traffic tickets,” Kuhl said. Gina is the answer to cutting down wait times to between eight to 12 minutes. Carter has been acknowledged with a 2016 National Center of State Courts’ Distinguished Service Award for her creative technology solution.

"Dancing Baby" video lawsuit could soon go before Supreme Court

A 29-second video may soon be the topic of conversation at the U.S. Supreme Court. Back in February 2007, Stephanie Lenz uploaded a short video of her infant son dancing to Prince’s 1984 song “Let’s Go Crazy.” Shortly after the video appeared on YouTube, Universal Music Corp. put Prince’s classic on a list of songs protected under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and demanded YouTube take it down. The video was omitted from the website for six weeks until Lenz hired an attorney claiming that “her video constituted a protected ‘fair use’ of the song.” The video was later reinstated. Free speech advocates have petitioned the Supreme court to hear Lenz v. Universal Music Corp. after its nearly decade-long legal battle.

Pros and cons of serving divorce papers on Facebook

Over the past several years, some estranged spouses have turned to Facebook to serve divorce papers. Last year, "Connected" reported that Ellanora Baidoo could serve her husband a summons for divorce over Facebook. According to Attorney Bari Zell Weinberger, Facebook serves as a service of last resort, and it has its pros and cons.

In Baidoo’s case, if the judge did not agree to serve papers on Facebook, Baidoo would have been required to serve legal notice in a local newspaper, which would have cost approximately $1,000 per notice. However, sending a summons on Facebook is free. Placing a legal notice in a newspaper also does not ensure that the person will see the notice. Facebook displays a ‘seen’ message and timestamp when the message has been viewed by the recipient.

Zell Weinberger says one major drawback of serving papers on Facebook is“...verifying that the account indeed belongs to the person being served.” Facebook may also present privacy concerns, but “courts seem to view this in the context that posting in a newspaper offers no privacy at all.”

Courts battling ‘ballot selfies’

With Election Day nearing, states are wrestling with how to handle voters who want to share their moment at the ballot box. According to the Digital Media Law Project, at least 30 states forbid the disclosure of ballots. Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey and New York prohibit the photographing or filming of marked ballots. California Assemblyman Marc Levine is trying to amend the state law to make ballot selfies legal, including marked ones. In New Hampshire, Secretary of State William Gardner is “appealing the decision in federal court, with social media powerhouse Snapchat getting behind the effort to continue to allow such selfies.”

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