Have you got a question for the Chief Judge?

Posted to: 
Court
03/28/2017

The Provincial Court of BC will hold its second Twitter Town Hall on April 6, 2017 as part of BC’s Law Week 2017!

From 11:00 am to 1:00 pm Chief Judge Thomas Crabtree will answer questions tweeted to #AskChiefJudge. Find out why the Court is repeating this event and what Chief Judge Crabtree hopes to achieve.

The first one
During Law Week in April 2016, the Provincial Court of BC held Canada’s first court Twitter Town Hall. Over a two hour period Chief Judge Crabtree tweeted 100 answers to 72 tweeted questions on topics ranging from his thoughts on night courts and mandatory mediation to the Court’s trial scheduling reform, First Nations Courts, and even what book he was reading.

Participants included people with legal problems, law school students and faculty, lawyers and members of justice organizations. The Canadian Bar Association BC, Law Society of BC, Trial Lawyers Association, Courthouse Libraries BC, Clicklaw, Legal Services Society, Mediate BC, Access Pro Bono, Justice Education Society, Access to Justice BC, and Nidus added to the discussion by sharing useful information.

The Chief Judge’s responses to participants’ questions and comments included both his thoughts distilled to 140 characters (the limits of a Twitter “tweet”) and links to helpful articles and resources.


Netlytic visualization of 2016 Twitter Town Hall tweets by Colin LaChance

The event was universally judged a success. Participation was so active that #AskChiefJudge became a “trending” topic during the event. There were positive reviews on Twitter, online, and in other media. It was showcased by the international Conference of Court Public Information Officers and chosen by Twitter Canada as one of its Canada Day lineup of “amazing stories”.

Why do it again?
The event achieved its goal of permitting members of the public to engage in direct communication with the Chief Judge - part of the Court’s commitment to openness and transparency. So why not rest on our laurels? The two hour tweet-athon was intense and exhausting for the Chief Judge and the team that assisted him. Why not be content with what we’d accomplished and leave it at that?

Chief Judge Crabtree explains:

“Last year’s Town Hall wasn’t just a one-off event intended to make a splash. It was part of the Court’s ongoing communication initiatives dedicated to two-way engagement with the public. We try to provide as much helpful information about our work as possible through our website, weekly eNews articles (www.provincialcourt.bc.ca/eNews), Twitter account (@BCProvCourt), and public speaking – not just by me, but by judges around the province who often speak to school, college, and university classes as well as service, professional and community groups.

It’s just as important that we listen to the questions and comments of British Columbians about their courts and justice system. Our public speaking engagements permit this two-way communication, but Twitter provides an opportunity to engage with more people in a different way and with people who may not be able to attend a class or meeting due to geographic or other barriers.

I felt the Twitter Town Hall was worth repeating. We received heartfelt messages of appreciation from members of the public just for listening and responding to them, and I found the two-way communication beneficial too. This year we hope to involve more young people, students, and people outside the justice system in the ongoing discussion of how our court can best serve the public.

So, as part of BC Law Week 2017, we are reaching out to high school students and law students and inviting them to join other members of the public in tweeting their questions to #AskChiefJudge.”

What kind of questions might be asked?
When he meets with groups the Chief Judge is often asked questions about his own experience and the life of a judge, and there are a lot of issues related to the justice system in the news right now.

The Chief Judge can talk about his own experience as a judge and as Chief Judge, how judges are appointed and educated, and about the Court’s initiatives to reduce delay and improve access to justice. There may be questions about the recently-announced changes to Small Claims Court, or the Court’s use of restorative justice, problem-solving or specialized courts, and efforts to improve its work with First Nations communities.

However, he cannot discuss individual cases - in Canada a judge’s reasons for decision must speak for themselves and appeal to a higher court is the remedy for errors. And he cannot discuss political issues – Canadian courts are a separate, independent and non-political branch of government.

Chief Judge Crabtree says, “I’m looking forward to hearing the questions on people’s minds and will do my best to answer them. If we’re not able to answer every question in the two-hour Town Hall, we’ll try to provide answers on our website in the days following the event.”

What: a live Twitter Town Hall with BC Provincial Court Chief Judge Crabtree

When: April 6, 2017 11:00 am to 1:00 pm

Do you have questions for the Chief Judge?

About his career and experience as a Provincial Court Judge and as the Chief Judge of the Court? About his leadership and the Court’s many initiatives? About judicial appointments, judicial education, reducing delays, changes to Small Claims Court or …?

How: Tweet your questions using #AskChiefJudge on or before April 6, 2017.

“He’ll tweet you back between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm.
Please note that the Chief Judge can’t discuss individual cases or political issues.

Not available on April 6? Tweet questions to #AskChiefJudge any time before April 6!