Researching the Jury’s Internet and Social Media Presence: The Ethical and Privacy Implications
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This Comment discusses the lack of guidelines regulating attorneys’ online research of potential and sitting jurors. Instantaneous online access to the personal lives of jurors provides attorneys with the opportunity to exploit private information throughout the entire trial process, ranging from voir dire to closing arguments. Because this research most often occurs outside of the courtroom doors, courts have had little opportunity to address the issue. Very few courts and ethics committees have implemented policies related to the use of social media to investigate jurors, which leaves it up to the attorneys in most jurisdictions to decide what is or is not acceptable conduct. Because attorneys have a duty to act in the best interests of their clients, it is unlikely that they will find on their own that simple online research would violate a juror’s privacy or threaten the integrity of a trial. After providing a summary of the limited authority from various jurisdictions regulating the use of online research of jurors, this Comment analyzes the differences and reconciles them by proposing uniform model guidelines for attorneys to follow.