How would you feel if you were chosen for jury duty, and the next day in court your Facebook profile was referenced? Well, the American Bar Association (ABA) has determined that it is ethical for attorneys and investigators to search and scan the social media sites of potential jurors as well as jurors already in deliberation. The ABA ethics committee brought the issue to attention about two years ago and finally came to its conclusion in April. Though they say searching public posts is fine, they do warn lawyers not to “friend” or “follow” someone as that would constitute an invasion of privacy.
Another issue brought up was whether it was okay for lawyers and investigators to search online sites, like LinkedIn, that show the profile owner who has recently searched their profile. In the end, the ABA committee decided these websites were also ethically sound.
Over the past few years, judges made it clear that nothing related to the trial should be posted online. However, jurors still posted online comments that have caused several mistrials and special hearings. Before the ABA decided it was ethical, some judges allowed lawyers to look through juror’s social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or personal blogs, while others denied permission to do so, stating that it was overly invasive.
Although these searches have been made in the past and have now been given the okay by the ABA, it doesn’t mean everyone will use them. Some attorneys believe it takes too much time and money to search the sites, and there isn’t always enough time to be able to do so. Jurors’ names are usually not announced until the morning of jury selection, which wouldn’t leave much time for someone to correctly find each juror. However, there are also some attorneys who say they will start searching juror’s social media sites for every hearing. Jurors tend to post things online about a hearing that they shouldn’t necessarily be sharing and by keeping an eye on these sites, an attorney could potentially save their trial.