The Global Judicial Integrity Network: Training Judges on Social Media Use
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The Global Judicial Integrity Network: Training Judges on Social Media Use

Hello, everyone. This is a new episode of the podcast series of the Global Judicial Integrity Network. We’re here today with Judge Virginia Kendall to talk about tips for training judges on the use of social media Judge Virginia could you please briefly tell us about your professional background. Sure. Good morning, I’m a United States District Court Judge in Chicago and I’ve been in the federal bench for about 13 years. I did serve for six years on our Judicial Codes of Conduct Committee and prior to becoming a judge I was a Federal Prosecutor and currently do a lot of judicial training around the world both in my own country, as well as in other countries, and I also teach in a few law schools as well. So, from your experience, what recommendations would you make to anyone conducting training for judges on the use of social media? I think that first and foremost judges need to understand their own ethical canons and their own ethical rules. And that sounds simple, but truthfully many times they are not intuitive. And so the best recommendation is to begin with the review of the judicial canons for that particular court And then once the canons are reviewed, then to show how each canon was potentially implicated in a very traditional way such as interpersonal communication or writing the way that we normally think of it and then transfer that concept over to social media and show how the very same concept might be implicated by using something in the digital world. Judge Kendall do think that there is a specific formula or module that works in this case for the training? I do– I’ve been using one that I think is very helpful to judges and it starts, as I mentioned, first with the review of the canons, so the very basic review– this is what you are prohibited from doing this is what you’re permitted to do– then you take one of those canons. And let’s take an example– you would take a canon such as “you must be impartial in all that you do as far as the cases that appear before you.” Everyone understands that in the traditional sense and then you take that and you put it into the electronic world and you say “now let’s recognize that when you are on Facebook and you are reading a particular post regarding a matter that might come before the court and you’re interested in that post and you like it and then you forward it to someone else saying read this post regarding this issue, now suddenly you’re doing something in the electronic world that you probably would not be permitted to do in the non-electronic world so that the step process like that– walking through each individual canon and then transferring it to the digital module the digital world makes sense And then to end, though, you have to have that thorough discussion where the judge can say “well, what about this scenario and what about that scenario. ” Because the devil is in the details with the way these play out in all optical arenas and it’s so helpful for that open discussion after showing the traditional way that it that it is prohibited and then the digital way that it is prohibited. And how do you ensure that judges who don’t understand the nuances of social media understand the risks of social media? I think it’s very critical for the judges to really have someone technologically-savvy in the training session and preferably have someone who can actually show them how the media is playing out For example, I don’t think that all judges know where their privacy settings are, how to set their privacy settings, how to change their privacy settings. I’m not certain that all judges know how to forward tweets or to get online in different types of media if they’re not in that particular platform. So, just actually showing them what the media can do and how it can be used is a great way to start out and someone who uses it and makes a very user-friendly approach. Just showing them how they would use it is the best way to start. What would you want judges to know about the ethical dilemmas that social media presents? I think in the same way that our canons are not intuitive I think that it’s not intuitive the way that our communications can be shared on social media. And we have our antenna up, so to speak, about being ethical when we’re speaking with someone or when we’re speaking in public, giving a speech, or writing an opinion, or writing a lecture We don’t think about our audience in the same way when we’re on social media We’re not recognizing that one small post could have implications of hitting a very large audience as well as staying online forever and not being able to be deleted because it can be stored and re-sent over and over again. So, first and foremost just having them think that their presence on social media has this very long term impact. And it also has for example a much broader audience and an audience that you may not really know who is in it That’s pretty critical to understanding the ethical pitfalls. There are many disciplinary cases involving judges use of Facebook, for example, but not so many for other social media platforms, so the concerns are not as readily apparent in those cases. What are the concerns with other platforms, like LinkedIn, for instance? It’s interesting because Facebook still has the largest number of members internationally but many other platforms are increasing in membership. And when you talk to the younger generations I think that many of them are moving off of Facebook and they use other platforms such as Snapchat Instagram much more readily than they go to their Facebook pages So, traditionally I think the judiciaries around the world thought we better get ahead of this ethical issue by training our judges about Facebook and things like friending on Facebook. But with all of these other platforms we recognize that the same implications that were there are in a whole number of different platforms and even simple ones like LinkedIn, which we think are probably the safest type of platform you can be on. We think that they are simple, but they’re not– they can post images, videos, you can forward messages of content, and you can be linked to hundreds or thousands of individuals all who are doing the same thing. And so there’s still risks with who you’re associated with on any of these sites. There’s risks with whether you support or forward or like certain material on various sites and it can be something that you’re not even readily thinking of at the moment. Maybe a case is coming up in the queue that is not even on your bench at that very moment that could be impacted by something that you’re doing in these platforms. So, mostly we have to train judges about those implications, so when they do have a presence in social media they recognize that there are risks to confidentiality, to impartiality, to the dignity of the court, and all of those implications that they have in their personal lives are magnified when they’re on these different media. Do you think that traditional codes of conduct can be applied to social media sufficiently or should there be provisions on social media specifically? I think the traditional codes of conduct can be applied to social media and they do apply to social media. I think the break is that people don’t think of them traditionally when they’re in the social media realm. And so having guidance about what the implications are when you’re actually in the digital world can be very very helpful to judges. I think that the core canons the Bangalore Principles apply very readily to social media. It’s just that the average judge cannot make the transfer easily to assessing conduct on those platforms analysing conduct on those platforms and making a discernment or discerning how to use those platforms without more guidance and so it would be very beneficial for judges to have more detailed guidance in the social media realm. Judge Kendall thank you very much for your very valuable insight on this issue. Thank you for your participation in our podcast series And for those listening to us, stay tuned for more episodes of our podcast series of the Global Judicial Integrity Network addressing different interesting and important issues under judicial integrity.

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