Shouldn't Judges Be Tech Competent, Too?

Gavel on laptop computer keyboard concept for online internet auction or legal attorney assistance
By William Vogeler, Esq. on May 17, 2019 3:00 PM

Youth doesn't necessarily make a computer whiz, but it can help. After all, social media is driven by the younger generation. Snapchat and Instagram weren't meant for people who look old in selfies.

Perhaps that's why older lawyers and judges are sometimes loathe dealing with technology? Or maybe it's a generational thing, like the difference between rock and roll, hip hop, and rap. In any case, it's a problem when your judge knows less than your teenager.

Technology-Competent

The American Bar Association knows this is true. That's why the association said lawyers have a duty to be technology-competent. But what about judges? Lawsites blogger Robert Abmrogi raised the question, and the ABA published it. He says it's time to add a duty of technology competence to the ABA Model Code of Judicial Competence.

According to a survey of federal judges, two-thirds said they needed additional training for ediscovery rules and practices. But that's only part of the problem. Judges confront technology challenges every day, whether it's deciding complex tech cases or just opening email. They need to know that an email attachment can infect an entire court network. They need to know how a Twitter or Facebook account can lead to conflicts of interest.

Ambrogi suggests a change to Rule 2.5 of the Model Code. It says a "judge shall perform judicial and administrative duties, competently and diligently." Ambrogi asks: "Why leave it to inference? Making it explicit would bring about the same sea change for judges as Rule 1.1., Comment 8, has done for lawyers."

Rule 1.1. Comment 8

Wait, Comment 8? Who ever reads the comments, and will there be a test?

For law students, there will be a test. For lawyers, there will be continuing education. For judges, there will be younger law clerks. Seriously, technology is evolving and legal professionals must, too. Either that or hire a robot -- with ethics.

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