Monday, January 19, 2009
A New Blog for a Better Broward
By Norm Kent
Last month, writing on JAABLOG, I authored a piece stating that ‘The Blog Serves a Public Purpose.’
Here is the link, if it remains up. http://jaablog.jaablaw.com/2008/12/21/this-blog-serves-a-public-purpose-by-norm-kent.aspx
Why then start another blog, a month after defending the other one?
The essence of the piece I wrote was that the Internet has opened up a new electronic frontier for the First Amendment, and bloggers have become the digitalized version of the ladies that stand in front of the courthouse holding up a Bible telling us how Jesus is going to save us all. I politely joked that it is too bad Jesus did not have access to IM, because he could have seen Judas Iscariot coming.
At the same time, I shared how unsavory JAABLOG had become. While communicating my thoughts that bloggers were protected by the first amendment and serving a public purpose, I acknowledged that JAABLOG's commentators and posters had become at times unnecessarily offensive.
I defend pornographers but I do not bathe in pornography. I have defended individuals accused of soliciting children but you will never find me at Annie Beck Park wearing only a raincoat. As an advocate operating within an adversary system, I have represented bad people who did mean things to good people. That does not mean I have to like them or become like them.
As you read the comments on JAABLOG, unmoderated, anonymous, and flowing with venom and vitriol, you get a feeling that everything about our system is unclean, unhealthy and untoward. Quite to the contrary, many of the professionals who make up our courthouse community are dedicated public servants working against all odds to fashion out a life for themselves, personally and professionally, which is honorable and admirable. Some achieve their goals, others get elected :-).
Over thirty years as an attorney, I have managed to disagree without being disrespectful, fight for causes without fighting people, and stand up for rights without beating up my opponents personally. That other blog lost that feel a long time ago. It is at once a home for truth but not trust. Penetrating revelations about a court officer’s misconduct are compromised by libelous missives without any basis in fact. It is Howard Stern on drugs. It has gone from humorous to hostile.
Within our lives, we are called upon to make choices each and every day. While it was my intention to participate in that blog enthusiastically, I have instead elected to exercise that entrepreneurial bent which has made America a land of limitless opportunity. Everyone has a right to build a better mousetrap. I have the right to create a better blog. And so I am starting my own.
There is another reason, too, I find it necessary to disassociate with whomever or whatever is called JAABLOG. The forces that control the publication seem to revel in anonymity and nastiness. They enjoy the hurtful and hostile comments as necessary components of exposing injustices in the system. I do not join in their enthusiasm. I choose to draw a distance between myself and them and their blog.
As a matter of fact, I promised last month to author an article on the rights and responsibilities of bloggers, referencing recent court decisions related thereto. Ironically, right now, in New York, a Vogue model has sued a blog seeking the identity of a blogger for purportedly defaming her. Last Thursday, at 7:59 a.m., that article was posted on JAABLOG. Within six hours, the article was taken down.
I have been told that the article ‘chilled’ the freedom of uncurtailed expression which gives the blog life. So the expression they chose to chill was mine instead.
I cannot and will not associate with agents of censorship, who are willing to curtail free expression to advance a personal agenda, one that sacrifices newsworthiness for possessiveness. I do not even need to know who took the article down. I know whoever it was, is not worthy of being my colleague and partner. I know they are being penny wise and pound foolish. So it goes. Now I have a blog of my own.
The blog I initiate today, though, is truly ours. It invites commentaries, and they may be anonymous, but they require registration. It invites participation, and it carries with it promise. Maybe it won’t be the Weekly World News of Meanness, but it will be viable and voluminous, critical yet conscientious.
Each day I will try to find a little time to sort through your notes and emails, which you can send to firstname.lastname@example.org. I am looking for news and notes from the courthouse; decisions that are distinguished or downright outrageous.
I am looking for organizations wanting to get their message out, and I hope the blog will become a healthy, helpful, useful resource for everyone working in and about the building, from jurors to judges and judicial assistants to counselors. My effort will only reach its goal with your participation.
This blog, the Broward Law Blog, www.browardlawblog.com will give life to the wealth of organizations that already exist. We have the BACDL, and associations under the moniker of the Broward Bar Association, Trial Lawyers Association, Young Lawyers Association, GLBT Lawyers, Hispanic Lawyers Association, Cuban Lawyers, lawyers in rehab and lawyers in drag. There certainly are enough groups to go around.
Last month, when I got involved with JAABLOG, I also agreed to try to restructure the not for profit corporation, JAAB, Inc, the Justice Advocacy Association of Broward. Many did not realize that the non profit and the blog are now two separate entities. The non profit never could pull its act together. I am going to try, but under a new name, with no ties to the past.
As the new President of that non profit, I am changing its name, recruiting new members and inviting your participation in the new Broward County Courthouse Coalition. Our start at a coalition will be the birth of this new blog.
This blog is designed to give a collective voice to many groups. It will be professional and responsible, and you won’t get your hands and heart dirty reading these pages. I guess maybe it will be like Playboy. You will pick it up more for the articles than the pictures. At least that is what you will tell people.