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COSCA offers new guidance for courting public trust and confidence through communication

COSCA offers new guidance for courting public trust and confidence through communication

January 4, 2023 -- To help courts establish themselves as a trusted source for information, the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) has published new guidance for developing timely, accurate and understandable communication.

In “Courting Public Trust and Confidence: Effective Communication in the Digital Age,” COSCA examines three types of “bad information” - disinformation, malinformation, and misinformation – and provides guidance on how to respond without compromising the integrity of the court.

“Now, more than ever, it is critical for courts to take a proactive approach to communication,” said Karl R. Hade, COSCA president and Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia. “It is up to us as judicial leaders to position the court as the trusted source of information.”

The paper suggests that courts need to break away from traditional responses such as silence, allowing orders/opinions to speak for themselves, an indirect response through a proxy, and limiting public information officers to “no comment” replies.

Instead, COSCA says, courts should look to these guidelines for effective communication with today’s audiences:

  • Use summaries directed to a general audience.
  • Provide transparency in more cases but particularly in high-profile or high-stakes cases.
  • Respond promptly to bad information.
  • Use a restrained response to undue criticism of the court system or of a specific judicial officer.
  • Increase social media presence.
  • Continue to expand civics education activities.

Additionally, COSCA provides several recommendations for combating bad information:

  • Consider judicial code of conduct amendments that would allow judicial officers to directly respond to bad information and targeted campaigns based on bad information.
  • Provide best practices training for court staff and judges on how to respond to bad information and defuse heated media coverage.
  • Develop a communications plan and trained team to help courts monitor and respond to bad information and publicize positive information in a variety of formats.
  • Consider establishing a media committee with media organizations, journalists, attorneys, and representatives of the court.
  • Offer plain language summaries of appellate opinions and high-interest trial court cases.
  • Provide greater transparency in all cases, but particularly for high-profile cases.

For more information on this paper and others, visit the COSCA website.