Mar 29, 2012

Twitter Overruled in Supreme Court

One of the persistent issues that I've written about on this blog is the use of Twitter in the courtroom: both authorized use by journalists and unauthorized use by jurors and other trial participants. This is a growing issue that an increasing number of trial and appellate courts across the country are facing.

The United States Supreme Court has not dealt with these issues, primarily because of its strict prohibition on any audio, video or electronic devices in its courtroom.

Until now. During the second day of the marathon arguments over the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also known as "Obama-care"), an attorney for the conservative Alliance Defense Fund apparently sent updates from the overflow room where members of the Supreme Court bar who were unable to fit in the courtroom were able to hear -- but not see -- a live feed of the oral arguments. These updates appeared on the group's Twitter feed, although after the tweets were noticed the group tweeted that "We are not texting or tweeting from within #SCOTUS. We are posting twitter updates remotely from AZ." The group also denied in another tweet that it was using a cellphone for a live audio feed.

Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arburg became aware of the tweets, and sent a court marshall to the overflow room to tell the lawyer, Casey Mattox, to stop. Mattox "complied with the marshal's directions when asked to stop communicating," Alliance Defense Fund spokeswoman Katie Blechacz told Reuters.

This incident just shows that courts are fighting a tsunami of electronic devices, and would be well served to accommodate them in ways that protect the integrity of court proceedings, rather than just adding on to the barriers against such devices, which are likely to be ultimately in vain.


James Cole said...

What is the court's problem with outgoing messages from inside the courtroom? I can understand the problem with incoming messages, particularly to jurors, but I don't see how outgoing should be a problem.

Darlingtons Solicitors said...

This is not yet as big an issue in the UK, in terms of courtroom use, but the whole issue of regulating social media and the law being able to catch up with development sin the online world is just beginning. Probably the most interesting and significant area of law in the next 10 years.

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