Lawyers’ Use of Social Media for Jury Selection OK’d By ABA
Trial lawyers who use social media such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram to pick out jurors now have the American Bar Association’s stamp of approval.
The ABA released formal opinion 466, which allows lawyers to review jurors’ Internet presence. It’s not anything new for most attorneys, but the recently released opinion ethically allows attorneys to do this in the courtroom.
Social media is just another tool in the shed for Columbus attorney Steve Chappelear.
“We learn something when we are in the courtroom, and we can look at them and hear them and we can ask them questions, but now we can get some background information and learn more about what bias or prejudices they may bring to a case,” Chappelear said.
Chappelear said the ABA opinion makes sense. It allows lawyers to use social media if the information is already public, but it doesn’t let attorneys “friend” a potential juror.
“It’s a good common sense approach, which protects the privacy of individuals. It eliminates the ability of lawyers to go in and use fraud or artifice to pretend to be someone else,” Chappelear said.
Chappelear said most jurors don’t even know attorneys look at their social media profiles.
“Frankly we don’t want to leave footprints because prospective jurors are – I suspect – not excited about the idea that lawyers are looking them up before a trial,” Chappelear said.
Case in point – potential jurors Brandi Jennings and Jonathan Samuel. The two were not selected for a jury trial during their week-long stint in Columbus, but just found out that their Facebook and Twitter accounts could’ve been used during their selection process.
“It didn’t cross my mind that they would look at Facebook or anything like that,” Jennings said. “It would make me feel some type of way – like why did they pick me from looking at my social media pages? What did I put out there to make them want me to be on the jury?”
Samuel said people should be mindful of their posts.
“You should be aware that there are a lot of different entities that can look at your Facebook, your Twitter, your Instagram,” Samuel said. “That’s personal responsibility. You’ve got to know ‘hey, what I’m posting right now can be seen by other people,’ so that’s your personal fault if you put something on there and you don’t want other people to see it … you’ve got to be careful.”
Chappelear said people can avoid all this just by adjusting their privacy settings.
“If you want to restrict it to just your true friends – fine, that’s easy enough to do – otherwise it’s all fair game for lawyers during the jury selection process,” Chappelear said.