Trial judges regularly warn jurors to avoid discussing trials on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. Some of them do it anyway. Naturally, trial lawyers are highly interested in jurors’ posted thoughts because they help the lawyers dig up and present evidence of juror misconduct that can affect the outcomes of their cases by special hearings, juror disqualification/replacement, mistrials and/or new trials on appeal.
Many individuals who are not on a jury also post their opinions on social media. Naturally, trial lawyers are highly interest in those posted thoughts when those individuals are summoned for jury duty because they help the lawyers determine a potential juror’s “leanings” – politically, socially and otherwise. In fact, online information can be so useful that at least one company sells software that can construct potential jurors’ profiles and follow selected jurors’ online lives during a trial.
How far should trial lawyers go in digging up, amassing and using jurors’ online information? Several state bar associations have addressed the issue and the American Bar Association’s ethics committee has studied the matter for more than a year. In April 2014, the ABA publicly stated that information passively gathered from such online sources as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn is ethical research. Simultaneously, the ABA warns lawyers against “following,” “friending” or otherwise encroaching on the private online areas of jurors or potential jurors. As a result, if you are called for jury duty or are serving on a jury as you read this article, expect your past and present online musings, pictures and videos to be reviewed with great interest but do not tolerate following, friending or other encroachment of your private online areas by trial lawyers or their associates.
DO’S AND DON’TS
DO realize that trial lawyers will review your past and present social media postings if you are called for jury duty and/or are serving on a jury.
DON’T post on social media when serving on a jury.
DO take great care in posting your political, social and other “leanings” online.
DON’T tolerate following, friending or other encroachment of your private online areas by trial lawyers or their associates.
By Kathy Catanzarite
Note from HandelontheLaw.com: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information can not be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither the author, handelonthelaw.com, or any of its affiliates shall have any liability stemming from this article.