Approaching the bloggy bench

by Toby Manhire / 06 September, 2012
David Harvey, the judge who has stood down from the Kim Dotcom case, writes insightfully on judges, blogs and social media.
Though his chief ambition was wordplay, David Harvey simply had to stand down.

The district court judge’s quip, “We have seen the enemy, and it is U.S.,” made during a meeting about the proposed TPP trade agreement, meant he had to recuse himself from the Kim Dotcom extradition case. And so he did.

But the great shame of it all is that Harvey is far and away the most internet-literate of New Zealand’s judges. A reminder of that comes in a thoughtful piece Harvey has written for NZLawyer Extra, on the subject of judges who blog and tweet and all that.

The article is replete with examples, and rewards a proper read.

Surveying the state of the debate in the UK, the US and Australia, Judge Harvey notes that while there will always remain a “risk that social media engagement by a judge could go horribly wrong”, why should judges not “blog about aspects of their jobs, professional issues, and the like, as long as nothing is said that might compromise the appearance of neutrality in a case”?

Equal care should be applied by judges dipping their toes into social media.

The example of the New York judge was moved sideways after apparently updating his Facebook page from the bench, and posting a photo of his busy courtroom, is one to avoid.

But such isolated cases are not cause for a blanket prohibition. Harvey quotes the “sage” advice of one US judge:

All judges and court staff using social media websites would do well to remember the advice given in the 1980s television show Hill Street Blues by dispatch Sergeant Phil Esterhaus: ‘Hey, let’s be careful out there.’

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