Judges Spotted Using iPads -- for Work

By William Vogeler, Esq. on May 23, 2019

If you saw somebody casually toting an iPad with earphones around town, you might not think that was a judge.

We expect judges, especially the seasoned ones, to have more traditional tools -- a leather bag, paper files, reading glasses -- not portable electronic devices. Or course, it would be different if the judge were wearing a black robe and carrying an iPad.

But times are changing, even at the traditionally conservative U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Speaking at a recent meet-and-greet, half of the judges said they take their cases home on iPads.

'Big Fans'

Jeff Richardson, an appellate lawyer and blogger, perked up when he heard about it. He uses his iPad often for work, and he wanted to know whether the judges did. All of them -- Judges James C. Ho, Kurt D. Engelhardt, Andrew S. Oldham, and Edith Brown Clement -- said their were "big fans" of technology at the Fifth Circuit. Two said they preferred to use iPads to read briefs. "(B)oth of them remarked that it is nice to be able to just take home an iPad without any other paper and still have everything that the judge needs to work on an appeal," Richardson said.

For attorneys who have been using iPads for years, it's good to know some appellate judges are on the same page. They don't need Apple products to be tech savvy, but hopefully judges are tech competent. Some lawyers think it's about time. Lawsites blogger Robert Ambrogi even says it's time to add a duty of competence to the ABA Model Code of Judicial Competence.

Tech Competent

Richardson, a regular at the Fifth Circuit, said other judges and law clerks there have no preference when it comes to the hyperlink function in electronic text. Unless court rules require it, he also uses footnotes for less important points. But he was encouraged by the panelists who talked about how they use their iPads. "In my experience, I'm already seeing more and more judges taking advantage of technology, whether it be courtroom technology in trial courts or judges at all levels using iPads and other tech as a part of their workflows," he said.

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