So you have a Blackberry and a Twitter account and you keep the world updated on your personal activities…constantly. If you’re a trial lawyer and you want to tweet live from the courtroom, think twice. At least if it’s in federal court.
And you might see if your judge thinks like a U.S. District Judge in the Middle District of Georgia, who last week ruled you can’t tweet from his courtroom. Judge Clay D. Land of Columbus said that twittering from court violates Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 53. That rule says, “[T]he court must not permit the taking of photographs in the courtroom during judicial proceedings or the broadcasting of judicial proceedings from the courtroom.”
The word “broadcasting” is the rub. In U.S. v. Shelnutt, Land ruled, “The Court finds that the term ‘broadcasting’ in Rule 53 includes sending electronic messages from a courtroom that contemporaneously describe the trial proceedings and are instantaneously available for public viewing.” And the drafters of Rule 53 were looking past TV and radio broadcasting, he said.
So check the Blackberry at the door. In Columbus, anyway.