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Legal Ethics – Jury Research is Okay, But Watch Out!

06.27.12

Needless to say that lawyers rely on Social Media to investigate potential or sitting jurors, but a new ethics opinion warns against direct communications. The New York City Bar Association issued Formal Opinion 2012-2 entitled “Jury Research and Social Media” which posed the following question:

What ethical restrictions, if any, apply to an attorney’s use of social media websites to research potential or sitting jurors?

In summary the Opinion concluded:

  • Attorneys may not research jurors if the result of the research is that the juror will receive a communication.
  • If an attorney unknowingly or inadvertently causes a communication with a juror, such conduct may run afoul of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
  • The attorney must not use deception to gain access to a juror’s website or to obtain information, and third parties working for the benefit of or on behalf of an attorney must comport with all the same restrictions as the attorney.

The Opinion is significant since lawyers reliance on Social Media will increase in the future, and the New York City Bar Association’s work should be a model for other Bar Associations.

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