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Judges Who Google: The Tip Of The Iceberg?

A googling judge has had his courtroom searches validated by a federal appeals court. The case concerned an Internet search performed by U.S. District Judge Denny Chin, who was ruling on a case involving Anthony Bari, who served 12 years in prison for bank robbery. Prosecutors allege that Bari violated terms of his release by robbing a Ridgewood Savings Bank branch in Bronx, New York.

Chin reviewed several pieces of evidence, including a bank surveillance video showing a robber who wore a yellow rain hat. A yellow rain hat was found in the garage of Bari's landlord.

Noting similarities between the hats, Chin at a hearing said he resorted to Google Inc's search engine for help. "We did a Google search," and "one can Google yellow rain hats and find lots of different yellow rain hats," he said.

Considering all of the evidence, Chin found the government met its burden of showing Bari violated his supervised release terms. He sentenced the defendant to three years in prison.

Bari appealed the ruling, saying Chin should not have gone online to verify a fact "whose answer was not obvious." The appeals court disagreed, citing a rule that allows judges to note facts "not subject to reasonable dispute" and which can be learned from accurate sources.

[And the appeals court] went further, saying improved broadband speeds and Internet search engines cut the cost of confirming intuitions.

The court said that 20 years ago. "a trial judge may have needed to travel to a local department store to survey the rain hats on offer.

"Today, however, a judge need only take a few moments to confirm his intuition by conducting a basic Internet search," it added. "As the cost of confirming one's intuition decreases, we would expect to see more judges doing just that."

You could probably improve the speed of justice even more by just using a wifi-enabled robot judge (as in Harry Harrison's 1959 story Robot Justice) and defense attorneys, like the lawyer program in David Brin's 1990 novel Earth and LEX (Law Expert System) from Greg Egan's 1991 short story The Moat.

Via Reuters.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 3/21/2010)

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