BC Provincial Court’s second Twitter Town Hall a success!

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On April 6, 2017 Chief Judge Thomas Crabtree kicked off BC Law Week activities with the Court’s second live Twitter Town Hall. As he had the previous year, the Chief Judge spent two hours tweeting responses to questions and comments tweeted to #AskChiefJudge.

Once again, there was a range of participants – justice system organizations, lawyers, students, and people with legal problems – and a range of questions. Traffic during the Town Hall, held from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm this year, was busy. The Court’s Twitter handle, @BCProvCourt, was used so often it was declared to be “trending in Vancouver” during the event.

Including questions sent in advance, the Court received 176 tweets (77 questions and 69 comments) and responded with 129 answers and 9 comments. Several questions received more than one reply, as the Chief Judge included links to reference material – articles, reports and judgments – to supplement his 140-character tweets. Justice and law-related groups were invited to share helpful information and resources during the Town Hall and their contributions accounted for many of the comments.

Access to justice was a popular topic. There were suggestions for night and weekend courts, discussion of “unbundling” legal services, and talk about the expansion of the new online Civil Resolution Tribunal to include Small Claims cases up to $5000. Several participants expressed concern that the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act prohibits people from using lawyers in that process. Others asked if different types of cases might be moved online.

There were questions about how judges are appointed and how to increase diversity on the bench. Technology, the importance of using plain language, restorative justice, and First Nations Courts were other topics raised. Judges’ use of social media also prompted discussion – including an exchange with a Dutch judge in Dutch!

Associate Chief Judges Gillespie and Wishart, Judge Jamieson, Digital Communications Coordinator Judge Ann Rounthwaite (retired), Legal Officers Caroline Berkey and Karen Leung, and staff members Alicia Perez and Lauren Van Leeuwen formed the Court team supporting the Chief Judge in this year’s Twitter Town Hall. Clicklaw Coordinator Audrey Jun, Karen St. Aubin and Travis Dudfield of the Canadian Bar Association BC Branch, and Meghan Maddigan from the Law Society of BC also participated and helped with publicity.

Response to the Town Hall was positive. There were appreciative tweets like the ones shown here. Online media carried stories about the Town Hall as it was happening. And in an article in SLAW, “Canada’s online legal magazine”, legal practice management consultant David Bilinsky wrote:

“@BCProvCourt is a very active Twitter handle and tweets regularly on topics related to the courts, law and related developments. … This is one of the most open and transparent courts in the world and it is setting an example of how a traditional institution does not have to be locked into a traditional mindset. Of course this all comes from leadership at the top and staff that support an innovative approach to courts, dispute resolution and the role of courts in society.”

Then, on April 10, the Nova Scotia Courts tweeted this final accolade:

See many of the 2017 Twitter Town Hall tweets and responses here (scroll to the bottom to read in chronological order).