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Abstract

This article will demonstrate how the unregulated use of social media by participants in the justice system (judges, attorneys and jurors specifically) affects the public perception and subsequently the integrity of our justice system. The article will provide a holistic review of social media use by judges, attorneys and jurors, and demonstrate why their use of social media should be harnessed in a manner to ensure compliance with ethical rules and reduce potential negative effects to the social contract between law and society.

Social media is like a culvert. It catches pictures, novelties, personal profiles, gossip, news, unfiltered opinions, and punditry. It is subject to misuse. This article draws lines beyond which the users in the justice system should not go. It recounts important cases and provides guidance when doubt seeps into what judges, jurors, and attorneys want to do. Part II of the article will discuss the perception of lawyers held by the public in general as a foundational basis to discuss the importance of appropriately regulated social media use in the legal profession. Part III will briefly discuss social media use in the legal community providing a backdrop to the opportunities and pitfalls of such use, which will be more specifically addressed in Part IV where the correlation between the provision of justice and social media use by judges, jurors, and attorneys will be analyzed. Part V will provide justification for regulation, or at the very least, detailed guidance for social media use for those in the justice system, recognizing that social media’s rapid dissemination of material requires that the legal profession harness or, less restrictively, regulate unfettered use of social media by attorneys as any negative implications will serve to further undermine the public trust in the profession. Suggested guidelines and proposed amendments to current provisions will be provided in support. Part VI provides the conclusion.