Lawyers Mine Jurors' Social Media Profiles
The practice of lawyers researching the social media profiles of prospective jurors is being examined by judges conducting trials in both state and federal courts, as well as by the American Bar Association. In 2014, the ABA issued a statement that lawyers can and should conduct due diligence for their clients heading to trial by researching jurors' profiles.
This practice received much attention in a recent jury trial in federal court that pitted Google against Oracle. In the lead up to the trial, it came to the federal judge's attention that the big-time lawyers were conducting mining operations on the prospective jurors.
The judge in this case, with jurors' privacy rights in mind, required that the lawyers in the case inform him of the scope of their juror research. He further ordered that if the scope of the jury research included their social media platforms, the jurors were to be offered the opportunity to adjust their privacy setting in advance of the lawyers' scrutiny.
When a case heads to a jury trial, jurors are summoned to the court well in advance of the trial date with a notice and a questionnaire they must complete regarding basic data such as their employment, marital status and prior involvement with the court system. This information, along with their address, is accessible to the attorneys involved in the case.
A lot can be learned about a person if this data is used for further personal research. Social media, in particular, is a veritable goldmine of public information that is useful to gleaning how a juror may view a particular case.
Some lawyers, however, go too far and attempt to "connect" or "friend" the person on social media in order to delve deeper into their electronic profile. This practice has been disavowed by the ABA, and gives lawyers a bad name if you were to ask us here at the Law Blogger.
Various state High Courts have began to weigh in on the issue. The Kentucky Supreme Court, for example, overturned a murder conviction on the basis that the victim's mother was Facebook friends with one of the jurors.
Social media users should keep in mind that their posts are not private. There are lawyers lurking about, apparently mining your data as soon as you are summoned for jury duty.