Thursday, May 6, 2010

Judges and the Internet -- Blogging

By John DiMotto

Not only can judges keep up with colleagues and friends, past and present, via the social networks of facebook, twitter, MySpace, etc.; and not only can judges do research on the internet - via social networks and legal websites; judges can express their views to the world via blogging.

I decided to start this blog in December, 2009 after encouragement from my friend and court commissioner, Anne Willis Reed, and from my friend, Michael Horne - former reporter with the Milwaukee Sentinel and current operator of the website, MilwaukeeWorld. They both told me that most people do not truly understand the life of a judge -- what they do, how they do it, why they do what they do and the ethical constraints that limit what judges can say outside of the courtroom. While they do not know each other, Anne -- a lawyer (and now the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Humane Society in Milwaukee) and Michael -- a journalist were "united" in their opinion that I could help people better understand the role of a judge in the legal system. They convinced me to head out into the uncharted waters of cyberspace and now, five months and 101 blogs later, here I am.

While I am not alone in doing a "judge's" blog, as best I can tell from a survey I did of the Wisconsin Circuit Court and Wisconsin Court of Appeals judges, I am currently the only state judge in Wisconsin who does a "judge's" blog. (If there are others who did not respond to my survey, I apologize.)

I try to convey a "typical day in the life" of a judge via what I do. I also use this blog as a vehicle to address current and upcoming issues that judges face/will face and what we can do to head off problems that come with the issues. A good example of this has been my blogging about the problems that have arisen based on juror use of the internet and their personal social networking via the internet. On a daily basis, I am being directed to articles about the "juror and the internet" issue from people I follow on twitter and from my friends on facebook.

What I do not do is talk about specific cases before me. Under our Code of Judicial Conduct (SCR Chapter 60) we may not engage in ex parte communications about specific cases that we are handling. We do our talking about these cases on the record in open court. This is crucial in contributing to the fairness of the proceedings.

I am thoroughly enjoying my blogging experience and hope that other judges will join me in this terrific experience.

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