voir dire

Keith Lee

Yesterday over at Hercules and the Umpire, Judge Kopf noted an article from the Federal Judicial Center regarding social media use among jurors. Also in the article was a brief bit on social media use by attorneys during voir dire.

Most judges stated they did not know whether attorneys were using social media during voir dire, and most do not address the issue with attorneys before voir dire. Only 25 judges reported they knew attorneys had used social media in at least one of their trials, usually during voir dire. Attorneys may have used social media to look at prospective jurors’ Facebook pages, to run names through search engines, or to look at online profiles, blogs or websites. Of the 466 judges responding to this survey question, 120 do not allow attorneys to research prospective jurors online during voir dire.

Which caused Judge Kopf to ask: “So long as the use of social media by a lawyer in the courtroom picking a jury is discreet, why in the world would a federal judge interfere with a lawyer using social media to obtain information about jurors during the jury selection process? That doesn’t make any sense to me? ”

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I’m writing today’s column from New York City, where I’m covering Thomson Reuters Vantage 2014, a great conference focused on mid-sized and large law firms’ use of technology. There have been fascinating discussions about how larger law firms are adapting to change and are incorporating some of the latest technologies into their IT infrastructure. Not surprisingly, however, it turns out that like solo and small-firm attorneys, large and mid-sized law firms are often just as reluctant to adopt new technologies and processes despite overwhelming evidence that doing so is the best way to stay competitive.

But the good news gleaned from this conference is that some larger firms are adapting, just as many solo and small firms are. And that’s my goal with this column: to showcase how individual solo and small-firm lawyers are using new technologies in their day-to-day practices. In the process, my columns will hopefully encourage and help other lawyers to do the same.

In today’s column I’ll be featuring Jill Paperno. Jill is a long-time assistant public defender, having worked at the Monroe County Public Defender’s Office in Rochester, New York for over 27 years. She’s currently the Second Assistant Public Defender and is the author of Representing the Accused: A Practical Guide to Criminal Defense (affiliate link). In other words, Jill is a diehard criminal defense attorney and has dedicated her life to defending our constitutional rights.

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I have successfully avoided jury duty since I moved back to New York in 2003, but this week they finally caught up with me. This week, I’ve had to perform my civic responsibility of sitting in judgment of my peers (like I don’t do that enough already).

Sorry, I had to “be available” to sit in judgement of my peers. Nobody is ever going to pick me for a jury. I blog about law for a living, hold two Harvard degrees, and have a checkered past. I’m not getting impaneled. Instead, I was just looking forward to the rare business day when I didn’t have to invent an opinion or listen to “the internet” pontificate on my weight.

Then the lady who seemed to be in charge of the proceedings told me that I was looking forward to three days of that. I went to protest, but Nurse Ratched told me to sit down and wait for my lobotomy. So i started paying attention to my surroundings — because blogging is how I cope with the slings and arrows of outrageous people asking me to behave like a normal person.

I’ll deal more directly with Nurse Ratched at another time. Today I got an up-close look at the voir dire process in a criminal trial. While I was not picked, I feel like my McMurphy-esque fingerprints will be all over the case.

Let’s take a look inside our clearly broken jury system…

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If you’re not booting up your laptop or iPad during voir dire, you’re not a very good lawyer. That’s my takeaway from recent WSJ and Reuters articles on jury selection in the social media age.

This week, the Wall Street Journal took a look at the evolution of jury selection in the age of social media, while Reuters took a look at this last week, quipping that “voir dire” is becoming “voir Google.”

Facebook-stalking jurors is presented as a questionable and still evolving practice. But the only thing that seems questionable to me (besides a DA considering forced-friending in exchange for Internet access) is why any trial lawyer wouldn’t have jumped on this already. Along with not Googling prospective jurors, I imagine these guys also avoid Lexis-Nexis in favor of the law library, type their memos up on an old-school typewriter, and review deposition recordings on an eight-track.

Both articles point out that potential jurors may be more candid online than they are in a courtroom, and round up some tips from trial consultants on reasons to strike potential jurors based on their Facebook likes and Google footprint. BigLaw types might be well-advised to strike anyone, for example, who lists “Erin Brokovich” as one of their favorite movies…

Read on at The Not-So Private Parts.