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ABA: Lawyers should not contact jurors through social media

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Attorneys can look at a juror’s public Facebook page but shouldn’t message the juror through the Internet or social media and try to access a private account, according to a formal opinion released Thursday by the American Bar Association.

The ABA’s Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility issued Formal Opinion 466 on Lawyer Reviewing Jurors’ Internet Presence.

“There is a strong public interest in identifying jurors who might be tainted by improper bias or prejudice. There is a related and equally strong public policy in preventing jurors from being approached ex parte by the parties to the case or their agents,” the opinion says. “Lawyers need to know where the line should be draw between properly investigating jurors and improperly communicating with them. In today’s Internet-saturated world, the line is increasingly blurred.”

“Passive review of a juror’s website or (electronic social media), that is available without making an access request, and of which the juror is unaware, does not violate (Model) Rule 3.5(b). In the world outside of the Internet, a lawyer or another, acting on the lawyer’s behalf, would not be engaging in an improper ex parte contact with a prospective juror by driving down the street where the prospective juror lives to observe the environs in order to glean publicly available information that could inform the lawyer’s jury-selection decisions,” the opinion states.

The committee believes a lawyer, either personally or through another, may not send an access request to a juror’s private website or social media account. This is an active review of the juror’s electronic social media by the lawyer and is a communication asking the juror for information not made public.

“This would be akin to driving down the juror’s street, stopping the car, getting out, and asking the juror for permission to look inside the juror’s house because the lawyer cannot see enough when just driving past.”

It is not considered a communication from the lawyer in violation of Rule 3.5(b) if a juror or potential juror becomes aware that a lawyer is reviewing the juror’s Internet presence when the social media network setting notifies the juror of such review. Also, if a lawyer discovers criminal or fraudulent conduct by a juror related to the proceeding, the lawyer must take reasonable remedial measures, including, if necessary, disclosure to the tribunal, the opinion says.

“We strongly encourage judges and lawyers to discuss the court’s expectations concerning lawyers reviewing juror presence on the Internet. A court order, whether in the form of a local rule, a standing order, or a case management order in a particular matter, will, in addition to the applicable Rules of Professional Conduct, govern the conduct of counsel.”

The full opinion is not yet available on the ABA’s Ethics Opinions website but the ABA Journal has a copy posted online.
 

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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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