Peeking Under the Robe

June 6, 2008

I ran into John Kostouros, longtime Twin Cities journalist and now communications director for the Minnesota state court system. He’s here because even the judicial system — perhaps the most traditional institution in our society — needs to get with the new-media program.

Kostouros has been pushing the court system to expand and improve its Web presence, offering more information on policy and cases. The view of the courts used to be that judicial decisions spoke for themselves, Kostouros told me. That may not be enough anymore, he said.

Elements of the American political system have successfully used the courts as a whipping boy to score political points, Kostouros said. The success of TV shows such as “Judge Judy” and others in that vein have also skewed the view many Americans have of the court system: “They see it as entertainment,” he said. “Those shows don’t give a true picture of how the court system operates.” It also doesn’t help that civics classes today barely skim the court system as they try to deal with increasing curriculum demands.

Kostouros isn’t suggesting that Minnesota judges start live-blogging from the bench (“The prosecutor’s tie is awful. Who dresses him?”). But he hopes to collect some ideas for using new media to improve the flow of information between Minnesota’s citizens and the court system that serves them.