New York State Bar Association, Commercial and Federal Litigation Section: 2016 Spring Meeting
This multi-dimensional panel will examine issues surrounding the use of social media by jurors and by attorneys during voir dire and the resulting actual and potential impact on jury trials. The depth of information now available to attorneys concerning potential and sitting jurors is extraordinary. The first part of the program will demonstrate through a role play re-enactment how advanced technologies can transform responses on a one-page jury questionnaire into a comprehensive amalgam of information about a potential juror, including, among other things, information relating to his or her social media relationships. Using the information collected, there will be a mock voir dire of a juror. The second part of the program will focus on juror misuse of social media, the prevalence of which will be highlighted by a recent study using software that enables users to view public Tweets by geographical location and in particular around the courthouses in lower Manhattan. The panel will discuss issues raised during the role play and study and a number of cutting-edge issues in the “jury and social media” world, with a particular focus on the Section’s Social Media Jury Instruction Report. For instance, should jurors be advised that attorneys may have investigated their backgrounds or that attorneys may monitor their public social media posts? Are courts limited to issuing jury instructions to address technological changes and to explain the risks of engaging in improper social media usage, or should courts go further and require, for example, jurors to sign pledges not to inappropriately use social media?