Social Media: A New Way to Communicate that Can No Longer Be Ignored

David W. Slayton
Director of Court Administration, Lubbock County Administrative Office of the Courts

During the recent royal wedding, there was some concern that the amount of social-media activity might actually cause the Internet to crash.  While that phenomenon did not occur, Webtrends reported that over 1.25 million social-media entries were made in the days surrounding the event (retrieved from on May 10, 2011).  As was the case with the royal wedding, many people now depend exclusively upon social media to obtain the day’s news, reviews of companies and products, and the latest information on services.  These developments are sure to impact courts and the way that we provide information and services.

For years courts have struggled with media relations.  From whether to allow cameras in the courtroom to how to respond to a reporter’s questions, the questions often outnumber the answers to issues that arise.  With the explosion of social media, courts must now decide not if we will embrace social media but when and to what degree.  As recently stated by retired New Hampshire chief justice John T. Broderick, Jr., our customers of the future will demand the increased technology services provided by social-media tools.  Their “expectations will be very high.  Ours better rise to meet them” (National Association for Court Management Midyear Meeting, February 7, 2011).  Building on recent publications by the National Association for Court Management (Managing the Message: The NACM Media Guide for Today’s Courts,2010) and the Conference of Court Public Information Officers (New Media and the Courts: The Current Status and a Look at the Future, 2010), this edition of Future Trends in State Courts presents a series of four articles about social media and the courts:

Katherine Bladow and Joyce Raby detail the different types of socialmedia tools available and lay out a detailed recipe for courts to utilize in developing a social-media plan. 

John Kostouros provides a viewpoint on the changing demographic of those in the media and how those changes provide opportunities for courts to have better community outreach and education.

Laura Click describes the seismic shift caused by social media, describes the new landscape that exists in the new reality, and suggests four practical steps for courts to take.

Michael S. Sommermeyer provides an example of how the Clark County, Nevada courts have been able to harness the strengths of social media to deal with crises in the court as well as educate the public about very important court programs.

All four of these articles take the issue of social media from theory to practice for implementation in your court.  We hope you find this information useful as you plan for your court’s transition into the new media age.