Jury Instruction Social Networking

Social networking by jurors can result in a new trial, creating increased expense for the parties.

The American College of Trial Lawyer has issued a brief report on this issue, and has proposed several instructions to prospective and empaneled jurors.

For example, ACTL recommends that this language be included on summonses to prospective jurors:

The court understands that you may be unfamiliar with the court system, and that you
may have many questions about what to expect from your jury service.  In order to assist you in  answering some common questions, we have [prepared the enclosed pamphlet] [created a special  website], which you should feel free to review before you report to court.  If you have questions that  are not answered, you may bring them to court with you on the day or your service, or you may call  [CONTACT PERSON].

However, in order to assist the court in providing the litigants with a fair trial, it is important  that you refrain from conducting any research which might reveal any information about any case  pending before the court, or any of the parties involved in any case.  Therefore, you should avoid  any attempts to learn which cases may be called for trial during your jury service, or anything about  the parties, lawyers or issues involved in those cases.  Even research on sites such as Google, Bing,  Yahoo, Wikipedia, Facebook or blogs, which may seem completely harmless, may lead you to
information which is incomplete, inaccurate, or otherwise inappropriate for your consideration as a  prospective juror.  The fair resolution of disputes in our system requires that jurors make decisions  based on information presented by the parties at trial, rather than on information that has not been subjected to scrutiny for reliability and relevance. 

The ACTL suggested instructions will be of benefit to those who practice in jurisdictions that do not have pattern jury instructions on the subject.  Tennessee has an instruction for empaneled jurors serving in state court proceedings .

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