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Apr 25, 2016

Quoted by the AP. And Herman Cain.

I've been quoted by the Associated Press in a story about a bill pending in California that would allows judges to fine jurors who use social media or the internet improperly during trials. And 2012 presidential candidate Herman Cain pulled my quote from the AP for his daily news update (halfway down the page).

The bill, AB 2101, originally would have allowed judges to impose fines of up to $1,500 on jurors who disobeyed a court order. The goal of the bill was apparently to allow enforcement of court orders against use of social media or the internet, but the bill's language was broader than that.

The bill has now been amended to create a pilot program in which selected courts could impose such sanctions.

California adopted a statute in 2011 making it a crime for jurors to use social media and the Internet to do research or disseminate information about cases. But that law was repealed in 2014, after it became clear that the threat of criminal penalties was impeding judges from determining whether improper online activity actually occurred.

Juror use of the internet and social media to obtain unauthorized information or discuss evidence during trials is now a persistent problem. But the threat of criminal sanctions may, as California concluded just a few years ago, are not likely to be effective. Instead, the answer -- which I've advocated for a while now, and was also endorsed by a recent report by the New York State Bar Association -- is to include specific admonitions against internet and social media use in frequently repeated and reinforced jury instructions, and to also explain to inquisitive jurors why their use of social media is a problem in court.

But it's good that the issue is getting renewed attention, even -- however obliquely -- from Herman Cain.

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