International Recognition for Provincial Court’s Twitter Town Hall

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The Conference of Court Public Information Officers (CCPIO) chose the BC Provincial Court’s Twitter Town Hall as one of three outstanding communications initiatives to be showcased at its 2016 annual conference. The CCPIO is an international professional organization providing training, resources and networking support for court communications experts.

Earlier this month it met in Hartford, Connecticut. Retired Judge Ann Rounthwaite, the Provincial Court’s Digital Communications Co-ordinator, spoke to court public information officers from across the United States and a project officer from the Ukraine about the Court’s social media communications and the Twitter Town Hall it held during BC Law Week in April.

The Court had begun tweeting from @BCProvCourt in 2015 in an effort to use social media for two-way communication with members of the public. The interesting content and conversational tone of its tweets won praise, with followers describing the Court’s “passion for digital outreach” and “flair for blogging and Twitter engagement” and calling it “one of the best uses of Twitter by a public institution”. Holding the first court Twitter Town Hall in Canada seemed a logical, if rather daring, next step.

The Court worked with justice system organizations like the Canadian Bar Association BC Branch, Courthouse Libraries BC, the Law Society, Trial Lawyers’ Association, Legal Services Society, Access Pro Bono, and law schools to plan the event and spread the word that Chief Judge Thomas Crabtree, known for his commitment to access to justice and openness to new ideas, would answer questions tweeted to #AskChiefJudge.

During a two-hour period on April 14, 2016 the Chief Judge tweeted 100 direct answers to 72 questions. The response was universally positive. Individuals and organizations tweeted their congratulations and thanks. The Vancouver Sun called it “an obvious success”.

Judge Rounthwaite reports “I described the event, its background, and impact to the public information officers attending the conference, and they responded very positively. I was actually surprised by how excited they were by our court’s openness and the Chief Judge’s willingness to engage directly with people in BC through Twitter. The public information officers, many of them former journalists and/or lawyers, were particularly impressed by the fact that our Twitter Town Hall was initiated and executed by judges – who can, for good reasons, be very cautious.”

During the Town Hall, the Chief Judge was asked for, and provided a selfie

Other speakers at the CCPIO conference included Connecticut State Police Lt. Paul Vance, who acted as spokesperson for all the police agencies that dealt with the Sandy Hook School shooting and won praise for his responsiveness, honesty, compassion and control of information. Another speaker, Eric Parker, a veteran television reporter who returned to school and obtained a law degree in 2010, added an interesting perspective. He now works as co-anchor and investigative reporter for a morning news program and also practices law with a Connecticut firm.

The BC Provincial Court’s social media communications work received national as well as international attention this summer. Twitter Canada chose the Town Hall as one of its Canada Day line up of amazing stories of “everyday Canadians doing amazing things on the platform” in 2016.

Twitter’s blog said, “… those stories show not only the versatility and velocity of Twitter, but also its unique ability to connect us coast-to-coast.” It went on to explain that the Court’s April 14th Town Hall gave BC residents a rare opportunity to connect with Provincial Court Chief Judge Thomas Crabtree in real time and ask him questions using the hashtag #AskChiefJudge,

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