Forty percent of state court judges use social media profile sites, with the majority of them on Facebook. Even so, nearly half of judges strongly believe that they cannot participate professionally in social networking sites without compromising judicial ethics.

These are among the findings of fascinating survey conducted over the summer by the Conference of Court Public Information Officers. The survey, New Media and the Courts: The Current Status and a Look at the Future, polled individuals involved in some way with state court systems. Of the 810 who responded to the survey, a third were judges or magistrates.

Among the highlights of the survey’s findings regarding judges:

  • Of the 40% of judges who say they use a social networking site, nearly 90% use Facebook and 21% use LinkedIn.
  • Appointed judges are far less likely than elected judges to use social media. Of judges who run for competitive election, 66.7% use social media, while of judges who never run for election, just 8.8% use social media.
  • Half of judges disagree or strongly disagree with the statement, “Judges can use social media profile sites, such as Facebook, in their professional lives without compromising professional conduct codes of ethics.”
  • Judges are more comfortable with using social media sites in their personal lives, with only about a third believing personal use would compromise judicial ethics.
  • Three-quarters of judges who use social networking sites characterized their use as purely personal.
  • Twitter has not caught on among judges. Only 14% of judges report using it at all and even fewer use it with any frequency.
  • Ten percent of judges say they have seen jurors using social media sites, microblogging sites or smart phones in the courtroom.

The survey also looked at use of social media by courts. Among its findings:

  • A small fraction of courts, 6.7%, have their own pages on social media profile sites such as Facebook.
  • About the same number of courts using microblogging tools such as Twitter.
  • Only 3.2% of courts use video-sharing sites such as YouTube.
  • While three-quarters of respondents agree it is OK for courts to use social media, only a quarter believe social media is a necessary tool for public outreach.

The CCPIO’s report on the survey includes an in-depth discussion of social media’s impact on the courts so far and on its potential impact in the future. The report looks at various technologies, actual court cases and ethics rulings. It concludes its analysis with five predictions about the future of social media and the courts:

  • More courts and state administrative offices of the courts will be re-examining rules and procedures.
  • More courts will develop official presences on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media sites.
  • More judges will be on Facebook, both professionally and personally.
  • Courts will continue to become primary content providers and develop more sophisticated multimedia communications capabilities.
  • Public information officers and information technology officers will form stronger partnerships and collaborative operations.

For any legal professional with an interest in social media, the full, 102-page report is worth reading. An executive summary is also available. Here are the links to the PDF files:

You might say that Judgepedia is the Wikipedia of the judiciary. It strives to be a comprehensive encyclopedic reference about America’s courts and judges. Like Wikipedia, its users are also its editors — anyone can register and then edit any article. “By helping to edit, add information, any fix any mistakes you see, the quality and depth of the information steadily improves and grows over time,” the site explains.

As you would expect, Judgepedia has pages for virtually every federal and state court and judge. (For the U.S. territories, it has only federal courts, not territorial courts.) The depth of these pages varies widely and correlates with the level of court — supreme courts get deeper coverage than lower courts. For many trial courts, the page is nothing more than a stub with a link to the court’s official website.

Other sections of the site cover judicial selection, judicial philosophy and court-related news stories. The judicial selection sections discuss the topic broadly and also on a state-by-state basis. The philosophy section covers topics such as judicial activism, originalism, stare decisis and strict constructionism.

For lawyers, the site is perhaps best used as a reference source on specific courts and judges. Each state gets a main page from which you can drill down to pages for particular courts and judges. The supreme court pages are the most developed, with current and historical information about the courts, their judges and their notable opinions.

Judgepedia is sponsored by the Lucy Burns Institute, an organization devoted to helping promote openness in government and to helping citizens compile and share information about governments. It also sponsors the projects WikiFOIA and Ballotpedia.

The Federal Judiciary unveiled a significantly redesigned Web site this week at U.S. The redesign is intended to make the site more attractive, accessible and useful, an announcement said. In the process, it added new Web 2.0 features such as RSS feeds, podcasts and multimedia. In fact, the Federal Judiciary now even has its own YouTube channel.

Among the changes:

  • A new navigation bar now appears at the top of every page.
  • The front page is reconfigured to make it easier to find the site’s key features.
  • An “Information For” box lets users find information according to their interests.
  • The ability to search the site is enhanced and a search box appears on every page.
  • Most pages now have buttons to print them or share them on a blog or social media site.
  • Users can now sign up to receive e-mail updates when new information becomes available on the site.

To see a video showing changes to the site, click here.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals now has RSS Feeds for both its opinions and audio recordings of oral arguments. The court posted this notice:

Along with audio recordings of the court’s oral arguments, electronic versions of the court’s opinions are now available via RSS (Real Simple Syndication), a method of delivering web content directly to you without cluttering your inbox with e-mail. Until now, electronic versions of the court’s opinions were available only through e-mail with an opinion attached. We will soon be phasing out this method and strongly encourage current subscribers to convert to RSS, which will allow you to search, sort, and filter information.

Both feeds are available from this page. As the notice says, the court will phase out e-mail notification of new opinions.

FindLaw has added RSS feeds for case summaries from the Supreme Court, the federal circuit courts and state appellate courts in California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas. It has also introduced practice-area feeds that provide case summaries for 16 practice areas, from bankruptcy to tax. The feeds provide summaries of the opinions and link to the full text. The full list of feeds is available here: FindLaw: RSS Feeds.

I can barely keep up with the efforts of Carl Malamud and his to “liberate” government documents. (See 1.8M Pages of Federal Case Law to Go Public and More Government Docs to Go on Web.) The latest project: Recycle Your Used Pacer Documents!. PACER, of course, is the federal judiciary’s system for obtaining case and docket information electronically. The acronym stands for Public Access to Court Electronic Records, but that public access comes with a catch — a registration requirement and a user fee of 8 cents per page.

The folks at believe that PACER’s registration requirement and fees create needless obstacles to public access. The idea behind this site is to provide a way for PACER users to upload and share the documents they download from PACER, making them available to others without cost. The site’s operators will review the uploads and post them in for future use. (They do this manually, they say, so don’t expect your uploads to appear immediately.) Once added to the system, documents are listed by court and then by docket number. It appears to be searchable on at least a limited basis using Google’s search-this-site feature (e.g.: “ queryterm queryterm”).

Carl Malamud’s nonprofit organization Public.Resource.Org and the legal research company Fastcase today announced an agreement that will allow Public.Resource.Org to publish 1.8 million pages of federal case law in the public domain. The archive, which will become available sometime in 2008, will include all U.S. courts of appeals decisions since 1950 and all Supreme Court decisions since 1754. I wrote in August about Malamud’s charge to crash the Wexis gate with his plan to create a public-domain repository of all case law, federal and state, and I first wrote about him a decade ago in recognition of his work to bring the SEC’s EDGAR database to the public. In today’s statement, he said:

“The U.S. judiciary has allowed their entire work product to be locked up behind a cash register. Law is the operating system of our society and today’s agreement means anybody can read the source for a substantial amount of case law that was previously unavailable.”

Notably, this public-domain database will come about with the cooperation of a for-profit legal research company. Fastcase has agreed to sell this case law in a one-time transaction that will allow Public.Resource.Org to use it. The cases will be marked with a new Creative Commons mark — CC-Ø — that signals that there are no copyrights or other related rights attached to the content.

Once it receives the cases, Public.Resource.Org will format them using open source “star” mapping software, which will allow the insertion of markers that will approximate page breaks based on user-furnished parameters such as page size, margins, and fonts. “Wiki” technology will be used to allow the public to move around these markers, as well as add summaries, classifications, keywords, alternate numbering systems for citation purposes, and ratings or “diggs” on opinions.

Going forward, new cases will be added to the database through organizations that already make cases publicly available, such as AltLaw and the Legal Information Institute.

Today’s announcement said that further news “will be forthcoming on the availability of other case law, including Federal District and pre-1949 Appellate decisions.”

I noted here in August that two federal trial courts had started posting audio recordings of courtroom proceedings online and that three others were slated to follow. Now one of those three has started posting audio of its proceedings, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Alabama. The two courts that started in August were the U.S. District Court in Nebraska and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Eastern District of North Carolina. The audio recordings are available through PACER at a cost of 16 cents. A court spokesperson said that the other two courts slated to join this pilot project — the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the Bankruptcy Court in Maine — have experienced technical glitches but should go live soon.

All transcripts of federal district and bankruptcy court proceedings will be available online through the federal judiciary’s PACER system, the Judicial Conference announced today. Transcripts will be posted to PACER 90 days after they are submitted to the court and will cost eight cents a page to view, download or print.

The Judicial Conference today also approved a pilot project to provide free public access to PACER at 15 federal depository libraries.