OMG, jurors can’t tweet about cases!

The federal courts have always been up on technology. The administrative office of the United States Courts established Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER), a one-stop shop for uploading and downloading court documents for federal cases. The courts themselves are relatively high-tech, containing such items as Smart Screens, document cameras and various display devices.

So it’s no surprise to find out that in December 2009, the Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management added to its Proposed Model Jury Instructions rules on social networking sites such as Facebook, My Space, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter. The proposed rules basically add e-mail, text messaging and the use of the sites mentioned above as forms of communication under the basic “no talking about this case” rule.

Although these rules are simply proposed, it probably would not be a bad idea to include such rules when you are drawing up your jury instructions. Never assume that jury members would come to the conclusion that they should not tweet, “OMG, just saw the grossest crime scene ever!”

W. Blake Wilson
Instructional & Research Services Librarian