The human face of the judiciary

Judges are people too.  They have families, friends, hobbies, talents, and similar successes and failures as the rest of society.  Traditionally Judges have sought to stay out of the public spotlight – their role is to be independent of the state and need to demonstrate and uphold an unbiased view of political and social matters.  Their decisions are to be based on law.

No doubt the American philosophy may be inconsistent with what we see here in Canada.  Judges are often elected.  Appointed Judges, all the way up to the Supreme Court, have a known judicial philosophy and political views.

What about when it comes to engaging the public in more of a social role?

This past Sunday Ontario Chief Justice Warren Winkler performed the Ira Gershwin Standard I Can’t Get Started on stage at a jazz concert.  The Globe article goes on to explain how this is likely about an attempt to increase public confidence in the judicial system.  Chief Justice Of Canada, Beverley McLachlin, is a perfect example of how the judiciary can engage with the public.  The Chief Justice is known to be a master with the media and does an excellent job of public engagement while still respecting her role as a Judge.

United States Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who have sharkly different judicial philosophies and voting records, are known to be opera afficionados and have been seen on stage performing together.

What about the world of social media?  Should a Judge be on Facebook or Twitter?  An Ohio Board has recently ruled that they may have a Facebook account but should exercise “constant vigil” in maintaining it.  Personally I find it surprising that such accounts are allowed and doubt we’ll see many Canadian Judges with social media profiles.  With that in mind, though, as long as the Judge does not give legal advice or discuss their decisions I fail to see the harm (although it could be a slippery slope) – after all, Judges are people too.

I have started a poll which asks the question whether Judges should be permitted to have social media accounts.

Thanks to today’s legal headlines from Wise Law Blog for the articles on Chief Justice Winkler’s performance and the Ohio Facebook decision.


Connie Crosby reviewed the Globe article mentioned above on SLAW.  Her post can be found here.

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