Jurors heeding judges’ requests not to use social media

July 31, 2014
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Nearly 500 federal judges responded to a request by the Federal Judicial Center to report on how frequently jurors used social media to communicate during trials and deliberations over the past two years. The judges’ response: not that often.

 Of the 494 District Court judges who responded to the survey, only 33 reported instances of detected social media use by jurors during trial or deliberations. And of those who reported social media use, 97 percent said it was used by a juror in only one or two cases. Facebook topped the list cited by judges; one judge reported a juror attempted to “friend” a participant in the case.

And the survey also reveals that it’s usually not the judge who’s catching the social media violation; it’s another juror, an attorney or court staff typically reporting the use of social media.

The number of jurors who used social media recently isn’t that far off from the number reported in 2011. There were only 30 reported uses of social media that year, in which 508 judges responded to the survey.

The reason for the small number of occurrences could be attributed to the steps the judges have taken to explain to jurors why they are not to use social media in the courtroom. Nearly 75 percent have explained in plain language the reason behind the social media ban and nearly 70 percent instructed jurors at multiple points throughout the trial. Two percent of the judges said they required jurors to sign a statement of compliance or written pledge agreeing to refrain from using social media while serving on the jury.

A very small percentage – 4 percent – reported they have not specifically addressed jurors’ use of social media.

This year’s survey also asked about social media use by attorneys during voir dire. The majority responded they did not know the number of trials – if any – in which attorneys have used social media. Only 25 judges indicated they knew attorneys had used social media in at least one of their trials. Based on those judges’ responses, it appears attorneys are using Facebook, Google and LinkedIn profiles the most to check up on prospective jurors.

Another interesting find from the survey: 25 percent of the judges who responded to a question on allowing attorneys to use social media during voir dire said they forbid it. About five percent of judges specifically permit it, with the majority saying they don’t address the issue with attorneys before voir dire.

The American Bar Association issued a formal opinion in April recommending attorneys do not message a juror or try to gain access to a juror’s private account before or during a court proceeding.
The complete report is available on the Federal Judicial Center’s website.
 

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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