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Top 10 Digital Dos and Don’ts: The Courtroom Edition

Tiffani Mims

Top 10 Digital Dos and Don’ts: The Courtroom Edition
Delmaine Donson via Getty Images

Nothing beats the first day of a judicial externship and you get to sit in an actual courtroom. Most jurists allow externs to sit in the front row or the jury box to ensure that they don’t miss a moment. Most of us as young externs cannot wait to text friends or take a selfie or post the amazing courtroom experience on social media.

As tempting as sharing all this information immediately may be, consider these digital dos and don’ts during your externship.

  1. Do ask your chambers about cellphone policy. Quite often, jurists have specific rules about cellphones in court and those rules usually apply to externs as well. Be proactive and ask. Interns are generally expected to adhere to specific rules governing cellphone use in a courtroom or a judge’s chambers. Learn the guidelines and respect them.
  2. Don't use your phone during court proceedings, even if the rules allow you to bring it in. One of the amazing benefits of a judicial internship is to learn about how courts really work. Jurists and other stakeholders may consider your cellphone use dismissive to the proceedings or indicative of a lack of interest in learning.
  3. Do not (repeat: Do not!) use social media while in the courtroom. Courtrooms have very strict policies about photography and recording. When you do use social media outside the courtroom but near the court, turn off location services on anything you post. Many social media platforms will automatically attach a location to a post.
  4. Do make sure your cellphone and notifications from other devices you may have like smart watches are muted. We all remember our ringer but the sounds alerting us to emails or social media posts can be distracting as well.
  5. Don't visit websites or check emails unrelated to your externship. If you need to bring a laptop into the courtroom, use it only for courtroom assignments. You never know who could see your screen and information you intended to be personal. Remember: You are always a reflection of the court.
  6. Don't assume that your colleagues in the judge’s chambers want to connect on social media sites. If you do ask to connect, try doing so on LinkedIn first. If you and colleagues become more comfortable over time, you can try connecting on other platforms.
  7. Don't make controversial statements or address sensitive topics during your externship. Again, you reflect the chambers.
  8. Do use your social media to inform others about the amazing experience you are having in JIOP. Just because you can’t take a selfie in the courtroom does not mean you can’t make relevant posts about your program and use hashtags such as #JIOP.
  9. Don't post photos of a judge or chambers unless expressly permitted. A judge’s or court's staff may allow you to post their photos on social media but you must get their express approval. Courtrooms are bound by legal and ethical constraints, not to mention increasing security and privacy concerns.
  10. Do realize that your judicial externship is an amazing experience even without digital documentation! Friends and family will appreciate learning about your experience during gatherings or family reunion rather than from a post. They may prefer to hear about your experience directly from you, live and in person.

When in doubt about these dos and dont’s, ask the judge’s clerks or read the judge’s court orders regarding court proceedings. Most judges have these types of orders available for attorneys. Make sure you grab a copy and get yourself familiarized with how your judge likes to proceed in his courtroom.