A new platform has emerged as a rich resource for law firms developing their jury selection strategy: social media. On these websites,most users are known to generously provide personal information, freely express their opinions on a variety of socio-political issues, and actively connect with people who belong to their real-life networks. Indeed, it now only takes but a few minutes to learn about a person’s entire work history, educational attainment, and political leanings, among other life details – all useful material for selecting suitable candidatesfor jury duty.
But the use of these sites for jury research is not without difficulties. In this article, we discuss the top concern in leveraging this avenue for jury selection: avoiding improper contact.
A critical aspect of the rule for professional conduct is the prohibition of communication between a lawyer and a juror. Specifically addressing the subject of lawyer-juror communication on social media, a 2012 Formal Opinion published by the New York City Bar defines communication as “the process of bringing an idea, information or knowledge to another’s perception.” In New York, prohibited communication includes sending the juror a friend request, requesting information on any matter concerning the case in question, andhaving the juror receive information that a lawyer or a firm viewed or attempted to view their profile, posts, or comments.
Through this policy, jurors are provided a free environment to form their decisions – hopefully based on their discernment of facts, and not under duress or the influence of communication from the representative of either party – whether or not such communication was deliberate.
The principle is clear enough, but complete adherence to it might be a challenge.After all, social media websites vary in the ways they foster traffic, and these correspond to different policies regarding privacy settings, as well as the notifications generated for users for any activity involving their profile. Facebook, for example, does not notify a user of views, but professional networking site LinkedIn does. Certain algorithms resulting from prolonged and repeated views of particular accounts might also prompt some of these platforms to generate an invitation for the user to connect, leading to improper contact.
It is an ethical risk that comes with a high price: a supposedly finished case might be declared a mistrial, which would be such a waste of everyone’s time and other valuable resources. More importantly, it means delays in the delivery of justice, and we know that this adage bears much truth: justice delayed is justice denied.
This is where the professional advice of a jury selection strategy consultant such as Dubin Research and Consulting (DRC), led by Josh Dubin, Esq., becomes valuable. Members of Dubin’s first-rate team keep themselves up to date with the changes that various social networking websites implement, trying their best to thoroughly understand all emerging technologies for jury research, vis-à-vis the pertinent rules and regulations governing the practice of their clientele.
Get in touch with DRC today to learn more about their wide range of legal consulting services.