Georgia Court of Appeals Chief Judge Stephen Dillard has shared his secrets for successful use of social media with the American Bar Association.
In an article the ABA Journal published Friday, Dillard offered a guide for judges to use his favorite platform, Twitter, in a way that engages the public without crossing any lines of professional boundaries and decorum. In so doing, he offers advice that works for other lawyers and professionals in general.
@JudgeDillard crossed 10,000 followers on his Twitter account about the time he invited them all to his investiture as chief judge. He has posted often about the law, college sports, friends’ birthdays and his hopes for human kindness—all without discussing anything he shouldn’t as a judge. Now he has explained how everyone can do it.
Dillard said it’s time for judges to stop isolating themselves in order to preserve their independence.
“In short, I think judges have a duty to educate those we serve about the important role the judiciary plays in their daily lives. But in order to do that, we need to rethink the way we engage with the public,” Dillard said. Like any good lawyer, Dillard acknowledged the risks. But he advised going forward.
“The fact that there is the potential for some judges to embarrass themselves on social media is not, in my view, a compelling reason to support a blanket ban of all judges doing so,” Dillard said. “One could even argue that there is some benefit to having the missteps of judges documented on social media, just as the missteps of other elected officials are documented. Transparency reveals what it reveals, and it is not always going to be pretty. But knowing more about our public officials’ actions and beliefs allows us to make informed decisions on Election Day. And that, in my view, is a good thing.”
Be conservative if you must, but know the result will be restrained as well, he said. “You need to be aware that you are not likely to gain much of a following or establish a true online presence if you are unwilling to engage the public in a more personal way,” Dillard said.
The judge said he has specific goals for his Twitter activity. The primary one is to “explain to the citizens I serve exactly what we do as judges on the Court of Appeals of Georgia.”
He also shared a more personal goal for social media—authenticity.
“My goal is for my online personality to be an accurate reflection of who I am in real life,” Dillard said. “And if my constituents truly get a sense of who I am as a person from my engagement with them on social media, then my time online will have been well spent.”