By Charlie Ingrassia
Law Clerk to Hon. Susan F. Hutchinson, Illinois Appellate Court, Second District
How does advancing technology affect the judicial process? How do jurors react when, after having near-constant access to smart phones, being able to frequently check email, and being able to make decisions in a fraction of a second, they are placed in a courtroom, where evidence slowly unfolds and they are required to make decisions based on instructions that a judge provides? In a society where people primarily communicate through technological devices, will jurors' ability to assess a witness's tone and body language decrease? Will judges be able to make credibility determinations as interpersonal communication and interaction decrease? And, important for appellate practitioners, if a reviewing court can be virtually where the trial court was through technological innovation, will that affect the deference trial courts are afforded for factual determinations?
These are just a few of the thought-provoking questions posed by Judge Daniel Tinder of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit during a recent ALA luncheon. Held on November 19, 2014, at the Union League Club in Chicago, the ALA hosted the luncheon in honor of Judge Tinder's many years of service on the federal bench. Judge Tinder has announced that he will retire early next year.
The festivities began with Association President Steven F. Pflaum welcoming ALA members and guests, who included judges from the Seventh Circuit, the Illinois Appellate Court, and the Cook County Circuit Court. Thereafter, President Pflaum introduced Judge Tinder, noting that he has dedicated his career "almost exclusively" to public service. Before being appointed to the federal bench by President Reagan, Judge Tinder had served as a public defender and as the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, among other positions.
Judge Tinder began his remarks by sharing with the audience that he told his wife that his plan for retirement was to "drink beer and play golf." His wife responded, "that is a fantasy, not a plan." Judge Tinder also reflected on his talent of interpreting the language of judges, which he characterized as "exotic and nuanced." For example, when a judge says, "counsel, this is a fairly obscure area of law," the judge is really saying, "I have absolutely no clue what you are talking about." When a judge says, "I have read the briefs and I have a good handle on the issue," the judge is really saying, "I have a tee time."
Turning to a more serious note, Judge Tinder focused his remarks on the judicial process in the Internet era. He noted metaphorically that children today are born with a smart phone in one hand and that increased access to technology and information influences everyone, including judges and jurors. He noted studies showing that the average person checks his or her email 30 times per hour, only 4% of website page views last longer than 10 seconds, and the average attention span in 2013 was 8 seconds (by comparison, Judge Tinder noted, a goldfish has an attention span of 9 seconds). Judge Tinder advised the audience that the next generation of judges will bring these experiences with them to the bench, which could significantly impact how controversies are adjudicated.
Judge Tinder closed his remarks by reflecting on his retirement plans, which include taking some time off, consulting lawyers, partaking in arbitrations, and speaking out on public policy issues. Drawing a large laugh from his many colleagues in attendance, Judge Tinder advised that he will not be arguing cases before the Seventh Circuit.
The Association thanks Judge Tinder for his engaging remarks and for his many years of service on the bench, and wishes him the very best during retirement.
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