The ABA Journal reported in its April 24, 2014 edition that ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professionalism has issued a formal opinion regarding lawyers who research potential jurors through social media on the internet.
Terry Carter confirms that in Formal Opinion 466, the Committee concluded that attorneys may view public information available on the internet during the jury selection or voir dire process; however, they may NOT communicate directly with the jurors.
Three specific examples were cited:
- Looking at information available to the public on social media accounts is the “mere act of observing” and is not improper ex parte conduct . . . much like driving down a juror’s street to view this home.
- Asking a juror for access to his/her social media IS improper . . . more like stopping at the juror’s house and asking for a look inside.
- Learning through a notification feature that a lawyer has reviewed public information on a juror . . . similar example when a neighbor saw the lawyer’s car pass by and told the juror. Essentially, the social media platform is communicating with the juror, not the lawyer.
Several other murky issues were reviewed including a lawyer’s obligation as an officer of the court to notify the presiding judge of possible misconduct by a juror discovered on social media. The entire opinion is available here.
Social media continues changing our lives and it certainly is no surprise that it will impact our judicial process as well.
Senior Vice President
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