Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Courts Warming up to Social Media

A new national survey by the Conference of Court Public Information Officers shows the impact social media is having on judges and courts.

The 2014 CCPIO New Media Survey has some interesting findings. More courts are using social media like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube as a public information tool. Facebook use by courts is up by more than 5 percent; Twitter use increased by 3.5 percent and YouTube by 3.2 percent.

Court officials have also changed their attitudes about reporters’ use of social media during courtroom proceedings. Nearly 66 percent of court officials in the previous survey had objected to the media’s sending of messages. Now only 46 percent say it’s inappropriate and 39 percent have no problem permitting it. 

Over time more judges and court personnel have begun to become comfortable using social media themselves, but there are still pitfalls for judges due to ethical restrictions on what they may say about their pending work and opinions they express. I certainly understand that concern, and since my first blog post in 2010, I’ve been very cautious in the topics chosen because I write as a sitting justice. 

I was glad to share some thoughts about blogging in the survey report. While by no means an expert in the field of communication, I am a firm believer that exchanging ideas on the best ways to help the public understand our courts is time well spent.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Law & Leadership Institute Student’s Perspective

In the summer of 2008, the Ohio Supreme Court started a pilot program to help increase the number of young people from underserved communities in the legal profession. Today, more than 400 students are involved in the Law and Leadership Institute (LLI) program that has spread to eight law school campuses in Ohio.

Athena Williams has been involved in LLI for two years. Athena will be a high school tenth grader this year, and she is already getting a taste of what it’s like to be a lawyer. She is a very engaging young lady, and I’m sure she will succeed in whatever career path she chooses.

Athena gives a report about her LLI experience this summer in this video story.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

What Does Independence Mean to You?

Our country celebrates its 238th birthday tomorrow. The Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress on July 2, 1776, but the official document wasn’t ready until two days later. So, we celebrate our independence on July 4.

The U.S. Courts put together a great video in which citizens, attorneys, and federal judges from across the country reflect on what independence means, and how the U.S. courts protect their freedoms. The different perspectives are very interesting.



Have a safe and happy holiday!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Addressing an Epidemic

Back in 1985 when I first became a judge and served in the Toledo Municipal Court, we had few drug cases other than marijuana. But over the next 20 years, we saw drugs of choice change from those of powder and crack cocaine to Oxycontin. Today, we are faced with an epidemic that takes the lives of hundreds of Ohioans each year – opiate abuse involving prescription pain medication and illegal drugs such as heroin.

On June 30, more than 800 of Ohio’s judges and others concerned about the impact this epidemic has on their courts and in their communities came to Columbus for the Ohio Judicial Symposium on Opiate Addiction.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor helped to open the one-day event that explained the consequences of addiction and offered information on promising judicial practices leading to new methods of treatment for offenders. Each team of the 83 counties represented returned to their communities with a plan to find specific solutions.

Many courts have begun to address this serious problem by using drug courts, which bring together court and treatment personnel to work collaboratively in assisting defendants with their addiction issues by treatment instead of jail or prison. The drug courts are seeing results with reduced recidivism and improved treatment for drug offenders, and with measurable cost savings. Court News Ohio recently visited the drug court at Fairfield County Municipal Court. You can watch the video here:

There’s still much to be done to stop the alarming trend of illegal drug use and death due to opiates. The actions that will be taken as a result of the Ohio Judicial Symposium on Opiate Addiction are steps in the right direction.



Monday, June 23, 2014

Furry Friend Works in Court

A new, furry employee is working in an Ohio court. Camry is a facility dog walking the halls in Marion County Family Court. He’s been with the court for a month but only since last week has he been in an actual courtroom. Camry helps defuse stress for children and even adults when they come to court.

Camry is the first of his kind as he was placed with a courthouse. Typically facility dogs who work in a courtroom setting are placed with a prosecutor’s office or with a victim advocacy group. There are currently 60 facility dogs nationwide in 32 states. Three of those dogs are in Ohio. Joining Camry is Avery with the Summit County prosecutor’s office and Nanook with Michael’s House in Greene County.

Any four-legged friend that helps children in the courtroom receives a blue-ribbon from me – especially one who knows 40 commands.
Click below to watch Camry’s story.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Schools and Teachers Needed for iCivics Pilot Project

Do you want to help students this summer learn more about citizenship? iCivics needs your help!

iCivics is working in conjunction with GlassLab and Filament Games to upgrade a popular game called Argument Wars. Middle and high school students and teachers are needed to improve the learning that occurs within the game’s cases.

iCivics is looking for 6th through12th grade students to play four games and then complete a short online survey. Their teachers – you! – would be volunteering on June 16 through July 3 to supervise the students testing out the new version of Argument Wars and provide feedback from what they also learned from the game. All pilot testing takes place online.

Contact Alison Atwater at alison.atwater@icivics.org by June 6 to learn more about this terrific program.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Celebrating A Civil Rights Landmark

It has been 60 years since Brown v. Board of Education, the case in which the doctrine of “separate but equal” was finally struck down as unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.  The United States Courts website has compiled a list of materials for teachers who wish to study this landmark case.
 
The resources include:
1.     A prepared script for readers to reenact the case – participants hold their own copy of the script and read their respective parts but do not memorize their lines. The emphasis is on comprehension and student-centered learning.
2.     The history of Brown v. Board of Education – teacher materials include a video of a young Thurgood Marshall from the site, Teachers Domain.
 
3.     Profile of Justice Thurgood Marshall – a summary of his early life, education, and legal career.

Teachers may download an activity package with recommendations on how to use the material.