YouTube–A Danger To Judging?


The Supreme Court is entering the YouTube era, says the New York Times. The first citation in a petition filed last month was not to an affidavit or a legal precedent but rather to a YouTube videolink. The video shows what is either appalling police brutality or a measured response to an arrestee's intransigence – you be the judge. Such evidence has the potential to unsettle the way appellate judges do their work, according to a new Harvard Law Review study. If Supreme Court justices can see for themselves what happened, the study suggests, they may be less inclined to defer to the factual findings of jurors and to the conclusions of lower-court judges.

Video creates a danger, the study said, of “decision-making hubris” by judges. Many judges do not seem to understand, said Suffolk University law Prof. Jessica Silbey, that video is not categorical or irrefutable proof like DNA but only a partial, volatile, and dangerously persuasive account of what happened. Video can also bring an encounter to life in a way a paper transcript never will.

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