ABA Rules Lawyers can search juror Facebook posts

jury-consulting-social-media-facebook-twitter-blogThe American Bar Association is not a governmental licensing agency with jurisdiction over lawyers, that function is left to the individual states bar associations. But the ABA is a very influential organization that often drafts rules and opinions that wind up getting adopted and followed by many state organizations. So when they ruled that lawyers can ethically search the Facebook sites of potential jurors for information about the leanings of these potential jurors, that got some attention.

The ABA’s opinion is not binding on any state bar association (and it in fact is in conflict with at least one, the New York Bar Association), but it is likely to be cited by many states as a bellwether of inevitable change that should be adopted around the country. After all, if the goal is to get the truth from jurors about who they really are (as opposed to what they say in court in order to convince lawyers that they are “fair and impartial”), what could be more useful than hearing what these people have posted to the world about themselves?

This does not open the way for lawyers to surreptitiously “Friend” jurors or to engage in messaging with them, those practices are still prohibited. But passively reading what these potential jurors have said about themselves, their political opinions, and so on, is bound to be of great interest to every lawyer picking a jury. Expect to see whole new business start up with the goal of providing a Social Media profile of potential jurors.

Read more about the ABA opinion here.

– RP