The Internet Cases blog alerted me to this case. Apparently, plaintiffs counsel in a medical malpractice case began using his laptop to "Google" potential jurors to learn background information about them. The Court questioned this effort as follows:
THE COURT: Are you Googling these [potential jurors]?
[PLAINTIFFS COUNSEL]: Your Honor, there’s no code law that says I’m not allowed to do that. I-any courtroom-
THE COURT: Is that what you’re doing?
[PLAINTIFFS COUNSEL]: I’m getting information on jurors-we’ve done it all the time, everyone does it. It’s not unusual. It’s not. There’s no rule, no case or any suggestion in any case that says-
THE COURT: No, no, here is the rule. The rule is it’s my courtroom and I control it.
The judge barred the practice. After the jury in the case ruled in favor of the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed, arguing that the court’s ruling that counsel could not make use of the Internet during jury selection.
Brown reports that on appeal in the case (Carino v. Muenzen, 2010 WL 3448071 (N.J.Super.A.D. August 30, 2010)), the appellate court found that the trial court’s prohibition was unreasonable:
There was no suggestion that counsel’s use of the computer was in any way disruptive. That he had the foresight to bring his laptop computer to court, and defense counsel did not, simply cannot serve as a basis for judicial intervention in the name of “fairness” or maintaining “a level playing field.” The “playing field” was, in fact, already “level” because internet access was open to both counsel, even if only one of them chose to utilize it.
Nevertheless, the appellate court refused to set aside the verdict, holding that the plaintiff failed to show any prejudice from the ruling.
It is only a matter of time before a similar case arises in Tennessee.