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May 27, 2008

On Judge Nancy Gertner as blogger

Thanks to How Appealing, I discovered this Boston Globe article discussing federal judge Nancy Gertner's recent blogging Slate's Convictions blog.  (Of course, regular readers know that Judge Gertner's many provocative and thoughtful sentencing opinions have long made great blog fodder.)   Here are a few interesting snippets from the Globe article:

Gertner appears to be the only judge in Massachusetts who shares her unfiltered legal views in the blogosphere, according to officials in the federal and state judiciary. A favorite of the state's defense bar and plaintiffs' attorneys, and the bête noire of some in law enforcement, she is also the only jurist among nearly two dozen contributors to what Slate calls its "blogging destination for smart legal conversation and commentary."...

For the past nine years, she has also taught two courses on sentencing, one a semester, at Yale Law School, her alma mater, where she shares her insights in her characteristically chatty manner.  So blogging, she says, is not a radical departure. "I saw this as the new media version of what I've always been doing," the former criminal defense lawyer said recently at her office at the John Joseph Moakley Courthouse. "If this is where people are getting information, this is where we have to be."

Not everyone agrees.  Bruce M. Selya, a senior judge on the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which reviews cases from Gertner's court, said he respects her and is sure she has thought out the potential ramifications of blogging.  But he would never do it.  "I think it would be a great strain on me to be careful not to say anything that could come back and make it seem like I prejudged a matter when it actually came before me," said Selya....

Gertner says judges are too often silent on issues they should publicly address, such as how federal sentencing guidelines have led to what she and other jurists consider unreasonably long prison terms for nonviolent drug offenders.  Judges must also do a better job explaining why the judicial code forbids them from discussing cases, she said, because their silence after controversial rulings is misread as arrogance or cowardice.

May 27, 2008 at 08:20 AM | Permalink


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"Judges must also do a better job explaining why the judicial code forbids them from discussing cases, she said, because their silence after controversial rulings is misread as arrogance or cowardice."

A federal district judge need not resort to a blog to explain her rulings, controversial or otherwise. Any ruling the judge wishes to explain can be issued in conjunction with an opinion, which can then be forwarded to the Federal Supplement for publication. Even without that, the opinion (or memorandum opinion, as it's frequently called) is part of the records of the case. Such records are routinely, although not uniformly, available to any member of the public who wants to go look at them.

Like Judge Selya, I have some discomfort with a federal judge blogging (how many of Judge Gertner's colleagues do it?), but I can't say it's against any rule I know about.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 27, 2008 10:22:38 AM

Doesn't Judge Posner have a blog? Did any of these issues come up when he started blogging?

Posted by: justice seeker | May 27, 2008 2:08:57 PM

I noticed that she gets a dig in at the First Circuit in her jury pool case.

“while one person faces a federal jury which may well be far less diverse than the state juries, etc.”

Posted by: S.cotus | May 27, 2008 4:05:29 PM

Oh yes, diversity again. If only the juries were more diverse, that would solve everything.

Posted by: | May 29, 2008 11:36:36 AM

I see nothing bad about blog. It let out the potential hidden inside of you it even helps you communicate with others.

Posted by: RSA | Dec 9, 2009 2:55:38 AM

To me blogging is a new way of making communications online. I am sometimes amazed by the power it has.

Posted by: Display Centres | Dec 9, 2009 4:06:56 AM

I prefer blogging over anything because it has a wide reach in audience online.

Posted by: business opportunity | Dec 21, 2009 8:53:09 AM

been hearing a lot of bizarre stories but this isn't in that category because believe it or not i am also a judge and I also do blogs.

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Wouldn't it be good if the same openess of Judge Nancy Gertner was adopted by Presidents and Prime Ministers across the world. Giving away the reasons why decisions have been made is never a problem to the people that elect their leaders. However leaders who make decisions in a climate of secrecy are a threat to everyone.

Posted by: Australian Management Academy | Dec 3, 2011 8:09:22 PM

doesn't this allow the judge to influence or be influenced by other people. Call me old fashioned but that may not be very healthy!

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