Court Decisions on Googling Jury Members

An interesting article, Voir Dire in the Age of Google, highlights two recent decisions regarding lawyers’ use of internet research during jury selection.  Florida currently has no rules/guidelines for or against counsel’s use of courthouse wireless systems.

In a Missouri case, Johnson v. McCullough, the state operates an online docketing system where lawyers can research the litigation history of jurors.  The opinion held that the lawyers should use reasonable, timely efforts to check that system — even though, in a footnote, the system has recognized limitations.  According to the Voir Dire author, this case suggests that Internet searches by lawyers during voir dire might be “imperative.”

In a New Jersey case, the trial judge held that counsel’s use of a laptop and the courthouse wifi to research jurors during voir dire was “unfair” to the other side, who did not bring his laptop.

The appellate court in Carino v. Muenzen disagreed, noting, “There was no suggestion that counsel’s use of the computer was in any way disruptive. That he had the foresight to bring his laptop computer to court, and defense counsel did not, simply cannot serve as a basis for judicial intervention in the name of “fairness” or maintaining “a level playing field.” The “playing field” was, in fact, already “level” because internet access was open to both counsel, even if only one of them chose to utilize it.”

For more discussion, see other posts on this site and the free, how-to guide, Internet Social Networking Sites for Lawyers.

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