Curious to know what judges think of Facebook?

It may not be advisable to stroll up to a jurist and ask her or him; they may get kind of prickly. Instead, on this Change of Venue Friday, flip through a comprehensive new report from the Conference of Court Public Information Officers (or, as I like to call them, some of the hardest-working PIOs in any sector; follow them on Twitter here).

The complete report, titled “2012 CCPIO New Media Survey,” is here, and it paints an evolving picture of judges’ comfort level with social media, at least in regard to the propriety of using it themselves. (Use by lawyers and—ugh—jurors is left for another study.)

Or, as the cheeky Wall Street Journal Law Blog said, judges today appear to be “less freaked out” by Facebook and Twitter.

Reporter Joe Palazzolo writes, “Fewer of them hate the idea of incorporating new media in their professional lives, and more of them are convinced they can use such tools in their personal lives without ethical issues.”

Ha! “Fewer of them hate” it. That may not sound like we should break out the bubbly, but it is quite a change from even a few years ago.

Here is a chart from the CCPIO study showing the shift.

Judges are warming to social media, a new study says in August 2012

And here are a few of the findings from the study:

“The 2012 data reveal several major conclusions:

  • “The participation of judges in the survey continued to climb, as did their use of the technologies surveyed.
  • “The percentage of judges who strongly agree that their own use of the technologies in the survey poses no threat to professional ethics has doubled since the first year of the survey. This applies whether the technologies are used in personal or professional lives.
  • “The percentage of judges who strongly agree that courts as institutions can use the technology without compromising ethics has also doubled since 2010.
  • “The percentage of judges who strongly agree that new media are necessary for public outreach has doubled since 2010.”

Very impressive.

(I am amused, though, that we continue to hold fast to that moniker “New Media.” Ironically, the last time I hectored readers about the oddity of that phrase was when I covered an event put on by court personnel. Is “New Media” a court thing? Let’s all just stop it. After all, social media is descriptive; New Media is kind of a throwback, sort of a Steamboat-Willy-gapes-at-moving-pictures vibe. New Media is old. If judges can change, so can we. Onward.)

Have a great weekend. And as you post a status update in social media, think of a judge.

Judge Alex Kozinski

In the April issue of Arizona Attorney (currently on the newsstands, or the coffee table, or wherever you keep it), our back-page news story describes a visit to Arizona by the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

For the brief story, I interviewed some lawyers who organized the event, as well as some rank-and-file attendees. And what was one thing that was oft repeated by the lawyers about Judge Kozinski?

“He’s a straight shooter,” a number of people reported. He’s candid and honest, said others. People enjoy reading his opinions.

Joe Palazzolo

Or even his dissents, as it turns out.

Recently, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog noted a Kozinski dissent in a gun-show case. As writer Joe Palazzolo describes, the Ninth Circuit’s “11-judge panel considered a long-running dispute over a ban on gun shows at the Alameda County fairgrounds in California.” That ban had been in place since 1998, when 16 people were injured in a shooting.

And since 1999, the case has wound its way through the courts. Opponents, not surprisingly, want the ban expunged.

But earlier this month, the panel voted, 9 to 2, to send the case to mediation. However, Judge Kozinski would have none of it. In his dissent, he says:

“The parties have not asked for mediation; they have said nothing that suggests mediation would be fruitful; when asked about it in court, they displayed obvious distaste for the idea. We overstep our authority by forcing the parties to spend time and money engaging in a mediation charade. Our job is to decide the case, and do so promptly. This delay serves no useful purpose; it only makes us look foolish. I want no part of it.”

There is some of that candor lawyers and others enjoy—even when they may not agree with his position.

The order—and dissent—in Nordyke v. King is here.

An intriguing post was published today over at the Wall Street Journal Law Blog. (Haven’t bookmarked it yet? What are you waiting for?)

In it, reporter Joe Palazzolo examines a unique company structure and muses on the issue of “When a Company Sounds Suspiciously Like a Law Firm.” The companies are legal staffing firms.

As Palazzolo notes, many of these firms go so far as to tout the depth of experience and legal expertise available to customers (clients?). And if they do that, “And if they’re not law firms, then the question is this: What services can they provide without violating regulations that prohibit them from practicing law?”

The question is not a hypothetical one. He points out that a regulatory committee of the D.C. Court of Appeals—the District’s equivalent of a state high court—has drafted an opinion on the matter (“Applicability of Rule 49 to Discovery Services Companies”). You can read it here.

What do you think of the situation? Do you see similar activities in Arizona that give you pause?