Justice Keith R. Blackwell. (Photo: John Disney/ALM)
Justice Keith Blackwell revealed his own judicially restrained social media habits and his thoughts about the Georgia Supreme Court’s new Twitter account in a conversation in his chambers with WABE’s Rose Scott on a program called “Closer Look.”
Scott asked Blackwell if he thinks President Donald Trump Tweets too much. But the justice, who refrained from commenting when he found himself on Trump’s list of potential U.S. Supreme Court nominees, responded diplomatically. The president, the justice said, uses Twitter in a different way, and very effectively.
Blackwell admitted he has his own Twitter account but never Tweets, and never will. Borrowing a term from the court’s public information officer Jane Hansen, he admitted, “I’m a lurker.”
It was Hansen who first suggested to the court that the justices might use Twitter to communicate with the public, Blackwell said. It took two years for the idea to take flight. But don’t look for a conversation on the court’s new Twitter feed.
“We will use it for strictly informational purposes,” Blackwell said. “It’s impossible to explain what we’re doing in 140 characters. We will use links.”
Since its first Tweet last month about the court being closed due to Hurricane Irma, Hansen has posted links to summaries of opinions and upcoming oral arguments as well as announcements of upcoming court dates—such as next week’s special session at the University of Georgia School of Law in Athens.
The justices will not, Blackwell said, engage in back-and-forth comments or answer criticism on Twitter. “I don’t think that’s appropriate,” Blackwell said.
“The court speaks through its work product, and its work product is its opinions,” Blackwell said.
The justice did express admiration for judges who use Twitter responsibly. “The gold standard,” he said, has been set by Georgia Court of Appeals Chief Judge Stephen Dillard (10,800 followers) and Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willet (103,000 followers). Dillard has posted roughly 15,000 Tweets. Willet has tweeted 25,000 times. But Blackwell promised he will not be joining them.
Blackwell said he follows Twitter for breaking news (Hurricane Irma, for example). But he said he will continue to “abstain” from posting anything himself.
As Blackwell told Scott: “I’m a Twitter consumer, not a Twitter producer.”
Katheryn Hayes Tucker is an Atlanta based reporter covering legal news for the Daily Report and other ALM publications.