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The chief justice doesn’t ‘Tweet, whatever that is’

Just because his colleague Justice Stephen Breyer likes to get some of his information from “the Tweeter,” as he calls it, don’t expect Chief Justice John G. Roberts to follow suit.

Speaking recently at the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Annual Conference, Roberts said he does not “Tweet, whatever that is.”

But, he said, the proliferation of social media and other technologies has changed the U.S. Supreme Court in many ways – from the substantive legal issues they present, to rules that the justices must set for their law clerks. One of those rules: no Tweeting about the job.

“I sit down with incoming clerks at the beginning of the year,  as soon as we get back,” Roberts explained to the audience in remarks that were televised on C-SPAN, “ and go through a number of things they have to be aware of, and that’s one of them. It’s new. I tell them that they obviously shouldn’t be tweeting about what they’re doing, whether they have websites or whatever.”

Though Roberts clearly is not at ease with the lingo of the web, he said he certainly understands that seemingly harmless Internet chatter could tip off the public about opinions before they are released.

“A lot of it is inadvertent,” Roberts said. “They kind of think ‘well, I’m working really hard on this opinion this week, or getting ready for an argument.’ And you know, discerning people can look at that they are saying and try to put two and two together and figure out, maybe, what their boss is doing and all that. So even unintentionally they can sometimes reveal confidences. And, of course that’s very dangerous. So I advise them to just put all that on hold.”

But the justices must deal with social media on the job, Roberts said.

“The impact of new technology on substantive law is really quite significant,” Roberts said.  “[So] it’s going to be a great challenge … for many of us to try to keep up with the new technology. It’s one of the great things, again, with the law clerks. They come in and they know how all this stuff works and what it means. They are a resource for educating those of us that are behind the  curve.”

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