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The People Deciding Thorny Legal Questions About New Technology Don’t Actually Use Them

This is a rather frightening admission from Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan. Apparently the other justices haven’t “gotten to email” and don’t understand modern computer technology at even the most basic level. From Huffington Post:

The members of the Supreme Court continue to communicate with one another through memos printed on ivory paper even as they face the prospect of hearing cases related to emerging technology and electronic snooping in the years to come, Justice Elena Kagan said Tuesday.

The justices have a ways to go to understand technology such as Facebook, Twitter and even email, Kagan said in a conversation with Ted Widmer, a historian and librarian at Providence’s Brown University who has been an adviser to Bill and Hillary Clinton.

The Supreme Court justices probably have less understanding of computers than your grandparents because their unusual position helps insulate them from change. Unlike most people, they have large staff that can deal with “technology” for them, and perfect job security to prevent the need to learn new things.

These are the people who ultimately will be deciding on the incredibly complex and technical questions about what constitutes “search” or “property” in a digital era where new inventions are constantly blurring and redrawing lines. The most important legal decisions of the 21st century will likely be made by a group of very old people who are almost uniquely able to choose to not really live in the 21st century.

This is yet another strong argument for ending the insane practice of lifetime appointments for Supreme Court judges and replacing it with an age limit or limited terms. Almost no other country in the world uses such a clearly crazy device.

Photo released under Public Domain

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at