Chief Judge hashes issues out on Twitter for first time

  • April 14, 2016

By Ian Mulgrew for The Vancouver Sun

In an unprecedented, lively social media appearance, Provincial Court Chief Judge Thomas Crabtree hosted a Twitter Town Hall on Thursday, B.C. Law Day.

Appropriately, the landmark session began at 1 p.m. with the tweet: “Order on #twitter. All rise. #Twitter Town Hall is now in session. CJ Crabtree now presiding. #AskChiefJudge

The broad discussion featured legal system stakeholders, lawyers, law students and people who didn’t know that divorce was in the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction, not the bailiwick of the provincial bench.

For two hours, Crabtree replied to dozens of queries about legal issues ranging from small claims to child welfare and the over-representation of aboriginal people within the legal system.

He provided ready references to key sources of information, cited links to resources, explained how the court worked, offered advice and even provided a selfie:

Here is a selection of the type of Q&As the exercise prompted:

Q: Any concern about judge/jurisd’n shopping from future use of legal analytics? à la Lexmachina Loomanalytics @BCProvCourt

A: .@Mainly_M Court’s new #trial scheduling system will reduce #judge shopping although it doesn’t prevent it entirely.

Q: Any advice for law students on how to best improve access to justice in BC? @AllardLaw

Q: @LocalNewsEye #Duncan First Nations court: How to track success/ use mediators vs judges?

A: @LocalNewsEye FNC is in year 2 of 3 yr evaluation led by @UBC. See #restorativejustice #BCLawWeek

Q: @BCProvCourt What do you foresee as near- and far-term impacts of online DR initiatives like BC’s CRT on your court?

Q: .@BCProvCourt Any chance Court stays open some evenings & weekends to better accommodate working schedules (and up #A2J)?

A: @A2JamieMac Night Court operates for some civil matters & bail hearings/search warrants are heard evenings & weekends. 

Q: @BCProvCourt Thanks for your answer re extended hours! Is your Night Court anything like this? :) 

Q: “Tell me, where are we going? Oh, what’s the future showin’? Oh, where are we headed?” What is the future of the Court?

A: @david_bilinsky Per the Beatles: “We’ll get by with a little help from our friends” 

Q: @BCProvCourt After 40+ years of helping litigants in your Court, what 3 words best describe the #A2J impact of @LSLAP_UBC?

A: @A2JamieMac — dedication, service & generosity!

Crabtree even revealed what he was reading, hopefully as a soporific: @CLEBC Annual Review of Law & Practice.

The interaction seemed to be driven by too many institutionally linked participants but it was an obvious success, as the Twittersphere confirmed — @bcprovcourt is now trending in #Vancouver.

And everyone involved was quickly congratulating Crabtree for his game performance.

Surprisingly, there were few trolls — a few questions about specific cases that were ignored and others from outer space: “Why did you refuse to reveal if you were a FREEMASON.”

It is believed to be the first time in Canada that a chief judge has answered questions live on Twitter and the event was a highlight of #BCLawWeek.

Efforts will be made to answer outstanding questions and there also is more information on the court’s website.

Or, as the Canadian Bar Association tweeted: “Don’t forget! If you can’t #AskChiefJudge…Ask a lawyer on Dial-A-Lawyer Day (Saturday) 10-2pm. 1-800-663-1919 #BCLawWeek.”