Examining juror use of new media; designing new media policies

Follow Us on Twitter - @NCSCNewMediaNew Media & the Courts ResourcesNational Center for State CourtsCCPIO's New Media Project

April 2011



Welcome to the inaugural issue of Connected! The National Center for State Courts has partnered with the Conference of Court Public Information Officers to produce an e-newsletter that follows the rapidly developing impact of new media on the courts. This newsletter will provide news, information and resources on topics such as how courts are using new media, the impact of new media on court proceedings, ethical implications of judges and court staff using new media, and court policy issues relating to new media.

The Resources section of the newsletter provides links to the NCSC's online new media resource guide, CCPIO's New Media Project site, and other useful links.

If you have any suggestions or feedback, please contact Nora Sydow at nsydow@ncsc.org.

Not already subscribed? To receive future editions of "Connected" via email, subscribe using the form on our website.


Hit of the Month:
Kentucky Judicial Branch Begins Using New Media to
Inform Public about the Courts

In February, the Kentucky Judicial Branch joined at least thirteen other state court systems that are using new media as a way to give the public more access to court information. Kentucky's chief justice and the director of the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) approved the use Facebook and Twitter --  with some restrictions. 

Kentucky chose Facebook and Twitter based on their explosive growth and wide-ranging demographics. "We have two goals for our social media program: The first is to generate interest in the courts among non-traditional audiences, such as young adults. The second is to drive people to our website, a comprehensive source of court information," said Leigh Anne Hiatt, public information officer for the AOC. "We post the same news on our website, Facebook page and Twitter feed, giving people three ways to stay informed about the courts," she said, adding they are already seeing increased hits on the website from visitors who have accessed news releases on Facebook and Twitter.

Because this is new territory for Kentucky courts, Hiatt said the AOC is placing initial restrictions on its social media program while it gauges use and reaction, and they have:
  • Opened only one Facebook and one Twitter account for the Judicial Branch;
  • Limited individual court departments and programs from opening Facebook and Twitter accounts; and
  • Prohibited public comments on the Facebook wall, at least currently.

The Office of Public Information at the AOC manages the content of the website, Facebook page and Twitter feed. The AOC formed a Social Media Committee in 2010 to address the impact of social media on the courts, identify educational needs for judges and circuit court clerks, and began discussions about a social media policy. "While we can't say that social media saves us time or money, it does allow us to take advantage of free resources to expand the reach of the courts," Hiatt said.

To become a fan of the Kentucky Judicial Branch on Facebook and to follow the court system on Twitter, visit www.courts.ky.gov and click on the Facebook and Twitter icons on the top right of the home page.


NCSC's Center for Jury Studies Examines Juror Use of New Media

In the first study of its kind, the NCSC is working to get an accurate read on how much jurors actually use new media to research or communicate with others while sworn to not do so. The NCSC Center for Jury Studies is seeking trial judges in civil and non-capital criminal trials to participate in a study entitled "Jurors and New Media: A Baseline Exploration ." The study will document the extent to which jurors in contemporary jury trials use modern communication technologies to conduct research and to communicate with others about the trial. The study will also identify trial characteristics, trial procedures, and juror characteristics that tend to exacerbate or minimize jurors' propensity to do so. 

The first phase of the study involves a pilot test of the survey instruments and study protocols to ensure that the study methods will capture accurate and reliable information. Trial judges participating in the pilot test will be required to rigorously adhere to the study protocols, particularly those involving the confidentiality of survey responses, and to secure the consent and waiver of the trial attorneys before proceeding. 

Contact Paula Hannaford-Agor (phannaford@ncsc.org) or Nicole Waters (nwaters@ncsc.org) for more information. The study is being undertaken with support from grants from the US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, and the State Justice Institute.


Designing New Media Policies

The Brookings Institution's Center for Technology Innovation at the University of Albany recently released an issue brief that offers information to guide governments in developing new media policies. The full paper addresses the following areas of official, professional, and personal new media use:

  • Employee access;
  • Account management;
  • Acceptable use;
  • Employee conduct;
  • Content;
  • Security;
  • Legal issues; and
  • Citizen conduct.

In its 2010 report, the Conference of Court Public Information Officers' (CCPIO) New Media Project included a helpful checklist of issues for courts to consider when developing policies related to new media. Some of the issues addressed in the checklist include official new media use policies, archive policies, employee policies, courthouse cell phone and other electronic device policies, and policies related to jurors. See Appendix B of the full report for the checklist.   


Facebook Revises Its Standard Terms of Service for State and Local Governments

The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) recently negotiated with Facebook and was successful in getting Facebook's standard terms of service revised for state and local government use. The changes will:

  • Strike the indemnity clause except to the extent indemnity is allowed by a state's constitution or law;
  • Strike language requiring that legal disputes be venued in California courts and adjudicated under California law;
  • Require that a public agency include language directing consumers to its official Web site prominently on any Facebook page; and,
  • Encourage amicable resolution between public entities and Facebook over any disputes. 

Connected Courts
The DC Superior Court Gets Chatty

The District of Columbia Superior Court has started using Twitter to reply to DC jurors who have tweeted about their jury service, and the Court is thanking them for their service.