Michael J. Sacopulos, Esq.
Last month, a trial was conducted in Queens, NY. The facts of the case are not particularly unique and it was the type of trial that could be conducted in most courtrooms across our country on any given day. The judge instructed the jurors before the start of the civil trial not to research the case on the Internet. The judge specifically mentioned sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google should not be used.
While studying on-line juror misconduct, University of Texas law professor, John Clark, came across blog postings by the jury foreman of the this trial. The blog postings expressed displeasure with the jury system and questioning by counsel of certain witnesses. Professor Clark reported the jury foreman’s blog entries to the Court. It is important to note that all of these activities were taking place during the trial.
The jury foreman countered with the argument that he had not discussed the facts of the case but was simply commenting upon things that annoyed him about the judicial process. This is yet another example of the importance of guarding one’s on-line reputation and the legal system’s difficulty in adapting the implications of the social media. Repeatedly, I have learned of cases where jurors have gone on-line during a trial. Some criminal convictions have been overturned because jurors have independently researched a defendant on-line. Defense counsel may work for months and incur vast expense to prepare a case for presentation to a jury. Unfortunately, little to no thought is given as to what a juror might find out about the defendant on-line. It is a brave new world. A wise defendant in litigation will take every effort to protect his or her on-line reputation.
Michael Sacopulos is General Counsel of Medical Justice and a partner in Sacopulos Johnson & Sacopulos, Attorneys at Law