SAN FRANCISCO – 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.
Lawyers and judges have been wrangling over how far attorneys can go in assembling a jury with help from online research of jurors’ social media habits.
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.