Proposed Amendments to Texas Civ Pro Rules Make Facebooking About Jury Duty a No-No
We've written several times about the potential hazards of mixing social media/the internet and jury service. There was the blogging juror who was turned in by a law professor. And the disturbing results of an unscientific survey of jury duty-related tweets.
The Texas Supreme Court must have been reading LBW. Because yesterday, as reported by the Tex Parte blog, the court released proposed amendments to the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure that, among other things, would hammer home the point that the internets are no place for jurors to be hanging out.
Proposed Rule 226a would change the mandatory instructions that trial judges would give to potential jurors on a panel, and to the jury once selected, in several ways. The current rule was last amended in 2005, and makes no mention of the internet. But the proposed new rule includes the following instructions:
Do not discuss this case with anyone, even your spouse or a friend, either in person
or by any other means [including by phone, text message, email message, chat room, blog, or social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter, or Myspace]. Do not allow anyone to discuss the case with you or in your hearing. If anyone tries to discuss the case with you or in your hearing, tell me immediately. We do not want you to be influenced by something other than the evidence admitted in court.
Do not investigate this case on your own. For example:
a. Do not try to get information about the case, lawyers, witnesses, or issues from
outside this courtroom.
b. Do not go to places mentioned in the case to inspect the places.
c. Do not inspect items mentioned in this case unless they are presented as evidence in
d. Do not look anything up in a law book, dictionary, or public record to try to learn
more about the case.
e. Do not look anything up on the Internet to try to learn more about the case.
f. And do not let anyone else do any of these things for you.
And those are just two of several places that modern technology gets a shoutout in the instructions.
The instructions that would be given under the new proposed rule are also written in plain language, as opposed to "Legalese," where possible. For example, the first proposed instruction excerpted above would replace one that currently reads "Do not discuss anything about this case, or even mention it to anyone whomsoever, including your wife or husband, nor permit anyone to mention it in your hearing until you are discharged as jurors or excused from this case. If anyone attempts to discuss the case, report it to me at once."
I'll be surprised if "anyone whomsoever" doesn't think the proposed changes are an improvement.
Posted by Eric Lipman on December 15, 2010 at 11:17 AM | Permalink
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