To tweet or not to tweet? That is the question. Poor Shakespeare; if he was around today Romeo and Juliet would’ve just tweeted each other about their plans and avoided tragedy, therefore, robbing the world of this great love story. Tweeting your every move or thought has become very popular in the last two years. There are more than 100 million tweeters worldwide. But, the question still arises: to tweet or not to tweet?
Tweeting was one of the topics of discussion this week during the opening statements of ex-Illinois GovernorRod Blagojevich’s trial in Chicago. Judge James Zagel made it clear that he did not want anyone tweeting in the courtroom during the course of the trial. Judge Zagel also warned Blagojevich that any statements he has tweeted may come back to haunt him.
Judges have differing opinions on tweeting within the courtroom. Some arguments against tweeting are tainting the testimony of witnesses, prohibition or limitation about discussing the trial, confidentiality and disturbing the court with electronic device noises. U.S. District Judge Clay Land in Georgia banned tweeting in the courtroom based onRule 53 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure: "Except as otherwise provided by a statute or these rules, the court must not permit the taking of photographs in the courtroom during judicial proceedings or the broadcasting of judicial proceedings from the courtroom."
Other judges tout the benefits to tweeting including transparency of court proceedings and the public’s right to know. TheFlorida Supreme Court just set up a Twitter account to report on newsworthy events and cases.
Here are some guidelines for tweeting at the courthouse. First, find out about the court rules regarding electronic devices. Some devices may be allowed in the hallways, but not inside the courtroom. Find out the judge’s preference for the use of laptops and mobile devices. Your second step should be to ask the court for permission. Your request should include your reasons for the need or benefit of tweeting. And lastly, maintain your professional demeanor and be respectful of the court when using the devices.
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