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Customarily subservient to their duty of reserve, judges are not known to offer comment to the media, let alone pen perspectives visible to readers both on and offline. How, if at all, might that change in the face of a lamentably increasing vituperative excoriation targeting not only the judicial branch itself but ad hominem attacks directed at individual magistrates? A phenomenon exacerbated by digital media, which, unlike its traditional predecessors, can effortlessly facilitate mob justice, irreparable ignominy or even vigilantism as a blunt and far-reaching instrument of dishonor.
The question of judicial cyber intimidation raises a broader institutional dimension, one related to the protection of democratic institutions, their future and diversity, which extends far beyond the merely distasteful personal attacks visited on an individual member of the judiciary. Indeed, women’s peculiar vulnerability to online trolling and cyber harassment, merits special attention. Accordingly, this talk revisits the proper limits on extrajudicial speech in light of the peculiar exigencies of the digital age and of the phenomenon of cyberintimidation in particular.
Karen Eltis is full professor of law (professeure titulaire) at the Faculty of Law of the University of Ottawa. A past director of the Human Rights Centre, Karen specializes in the impact of new technology on constitutional rights and democracy from a comparative perspective, with special emphasis on privacy. She served as Senior Advisor to the National Judicial Institute and has taught at Columbia Law School. Fluent in French, English, Hebrew, Spanish and Romanian and proficient in German and Italian, Professor Eltis holds law degrees from McGill University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Columbia Law School (Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar). Prior to joining the faculty at the University of Ottawa, Karen was a litigation associate in New York City. Her research on privacy was cited by the Supreme Court of Canada (in A.B. v. Bragg, 2012) and other Canadian and foreign courts. Karen’s latest book is titled “Courts, Litigants and the Digital Age: Second Edition” (Irwin Law, 2016) supported by the CIRA grant.
Judge Yigal Mersel of the Jerusalem District Court, Israel, is the director of the new Israeli Center for Judicial Education and Training and past secretary general of the International Organization of Judicial Training (IOJT). Judge Mersel holds an LLM and LLD (doctorate) degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he also taught. He was a Fulbright and Hauser Scholar at NYU school of law, as well as an Emile Noel fellow. Judge Mersel published two books, one on the topic of Comparative Judicial Disqualification, and more than 20 scholarly articles. His research focuses on constitutional law, administrative law and judicial ethics and he served as a member of the Israeli Judicial Ethics Committee.