April 2017


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New Media & the Courts Resources


Mobile app gives legal guidance on sharing juvenile info

The Commission on Improving the Status of Children in Indiana has produced a free mobile app that tells users if they can share records, and, if so, explains how to do it. For example, if a youth’s probation officer wants copies of the child’s grade reports and test scores, the app will explain under what circumstances the records can be shared, and whether a release or a court order is required. The app is populated from a 200-page legal white paper on sharing information related to juvenile cases. Look for “Information Sharing Guide” in app stores.

Florida Supreme Court debuts social media accounts


Just over a year after the December 2015 adoption of Florida’s statewide court communications plan, all 26 divisions of its State Courts System are in full gear implementing this sweeping new blueprint for expanding judicial outreach to the public. The Florida Supreme Court launched its new Facebook page @floridasupremecourt in September and now is in production for ongoing podcasts that will be distributed via its website and social media feeds starting this spring.  Florida’s highest court has used Twitter successfully for seven years now, as well as LinkedIn and Instagram.

This work was followed by the March debut of separate new Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram feeds dedicated just to the duties of Florida’s Office of the State Courts Administrator, which reports directly to the state’s chief justice.  A number of lower courts in Florida already have active social media feeds and many others will soon join in an effort to keep the public informed about court work.  Florida’s Ninth Judicial Circuit in Orlando has a widely praised podcasting program called Open Ninth, which began a year ago.

The Florida Supreme Court’s 20-year-old Public Information Office is compiling a statewide report on the first-year activities under the new communications plan. The report will be distributed publicly after it is reviewed by Florida’s statewide professional association of court communicators, the Florida Court Public Information Officers, Inc. The plan entrusted implementation to FCPIO after a personal charge given at its statewide meeting in early 2016 by Florida’s Chief Justice Jorge Labarga, who has made the plan a priority of his administration.

New Jersey judges say wiretap privacy rules don't apply to social media messages


A panel of three New Jersey judges has ruled  that wiretap privacy rules don't apply to social media messages. According to an article on NJ.com, the issue in this case is "whether social media chat amounts to an 'ongoing conversation' that can be intercepted by police or communications records that are 'in storage' and can be accessed later." Prosecutors in this case argued that accessing Twitter posts or videos "did not amount to an 'interception' or data under the wiretap law because the posts are 'stored' on the company's servers and typically accessed afterward by police."  What does this mean for authorities? Police will need a general search warrant in order to access private social media posts. They will also need a communications data warrant before they can persuade social media companies to produce private user data.

New Mexico Supreme Court give attorneys, media permission to access court records online


The New Mexico Supreme Court has approved a policy giving attorneys, journalists and others access to court records. "Allowing online access to electronic records in civil and criminal cases will improve governmental transparency, assist attorneys, and governmental agencies in their work, and help members of the press, under their First Amendment rights, provide timely and accurate information to the public." Approved users are able to view and download court documents from personal computer terminals through a secure and restricted access system operated by the Judicial Information Division. Find out who qualifies for online access to court records under the new policy.

  Judge Dillard's Dog, Irish
(Source: Twitter)

How one tweet turned a judge's dog into a Twitter star

Irish has had a "ruff" couple of months. Her owner, Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Dillard, posted an incriminating tweet about "escaping from the backyard and playing in the creek." Irish, aka @JudgDillardDog, replied to the image claiming his innocence. "I'm innocent! Chased away a burglar and then followed him down to the creek to help authorities. Need a lawyer quick!" Irish gained a quick following (159 followers to date) and has had a slew of doggish responses since. One witty follower stated, "It's habeas sportus for dogs." Irish replied, "Either way I should be free! Plus, my Latin isn't very good. The translation always comes back as woof!"

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