Forty percent of state court judges use social media profile sites, with the majority of them on Facebook. Even so, nearly half of judges strongly believe that they cannot participate professionally in social networking sites without compromising judicial ethics.

These are among the findings of fascinating survey conducted over the summer by the Conference of Court Public Information Officers. The survey, New Media and the Courts: The Current Status and a Look at the Future, polled individuals involved in some way with state court systems. Of the 810 who responded to the survey, a third were judges or magistrates.

Among the highlights of the survey’s findings regarding judges:

  • Of the 40% of judges who say they use a social networking site, nearly 90% use Facebook and 21% use LinkedIn.
  • Appointed judges are far less likely than elected judges to use social media. Of judges who run for competitive election, 66.7% use social media, while of judges who never run for election, just 8.8% use social media.
  • Half of judges disagree or strongly disagree with the statement, “Judges can use social media profile sites, such as Facebook, in their professional lives without compromising professional conduct codes of ethics.”
  • Judges are more comfortable with using social media sites in their personal lives, with only about a third believing personal use would compromise judicial ethics.
  • Three-quarters of judges who use social networking sites characterized their use as purely personal.
  • Twitter has not caught on among judges. Only 14% of judges report using it at all and even fewer use it with any frequency.
  • Ten percent of judges say they have seen jurors using social media sites, microblogging sites or smart phones in the courtroom.

The survey also looked at use of social media by courts. Among its findings:

  • A small fraction of courts, 6.7%, have their own pages on social media profile sites such as Facebook.
  • About the same number of courts using microblogging tools such as Twitter.
  • Only 3.2% of courts use video-sharing sites such as YouTube.
  • While three-quarters of respondents agree it is OK for courts to use social media, only a quarter believe social media is a necessary tool for public outreach.

The CCPIO’s report on the survey includes an in-depth discussion of social media’s impact on the courts so far and on its potential impact in the future. The report looks at various technologies, actual court cases and ethics rulings. It concludes its analysis with five predictions about the future of social media and the courts:

  • More courts and state administrative offices of the courts will be re-examining rules and procedures.
  • More courts will develop official presences on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media sites.
  • More judges will be on Facebook, both professionally and personally.
  • Courts will continue to become primary content providers and develop more sophisticated multimedia communications capabilities.
  • Public information officers and information technology officers will form stronger partnerships and collaborative operations.

For any legal professional with an interest in social media, the full, 102-page report is worth reading. An executive summary is also available. Here are the links to the PDF files:

Photo of Bob Ambrogi Bob Ambrogi

Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division.