American Bar Association Gives Lawyers Green Light To Scan Jurors' Social Media Sites
By PAUL ELIAS
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Lawyers have been given the green light to scan the social media sites of jurors.
The American Bar Association says it's ethical for lawyers to scour online for publicly available musings of citizens called for jury service — and even jurors in deliberations.
But the ABA does warn lawyers against actively "following" or "friending" jurors or otherwise invading their private Internet areas.
Though judges now universally admonish jurors to refrain from discussing trials on social media, the nationwide lawyers group for the first time is addressing how deeply attorneys, their investigators and their consultants can probe for information that might signal leanings of potential jurors, or unearth juror misconduct during trials.
Jurors' online postings have disrupted many legal proceedings over the years, causing mistrials and special hearings over the effects of Facebook musings, tweets and blog writings about their trial experiences. Lawyers and judges have also been wrangling over how far attorneys can go in assembling a jury with help from online research of jurors' social media habits.
A few judges have denied lawyers permission to research social media sites as overly invasive while others have allowed it. One company has gone so far as to develop a software product that promises to create a juror profile through social media posts and monitor jurors during the trial.
The ABA's ethics committee began reviewing the issue about two years ago and concluded in April that looking at Facebook posts, Twitter tweets and other information gathered passively is ethical research.
"It's like any other publicly available information," said Donald Lundberg, an Indianapolis, Indiana, attorney who helped draft the ABA's opinion as an ethics committee member.
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