Apr 15, 2013

Social Media in Court Down Under

A panel of academics (including my friend Mark Pearson of Griffith University) has issued a report commissioned by the Attorney General of the Australian state of Victoria on the issues involving jurors' use of social media, including recommendations for dealing with the issue.

The problems resulting from juror use of social media that the report describes are the same as in American courts: juror use of social media to research and comment on cases, and to research and communicate with trial participants, including fellow jurors.

Social media poses a particular threat to the Australian -- and British -- practice of issuing "non-publication orders" which bar publication of "material which has a tendency to interfere with the administration of justice," and punishing those who publish such material -- whether such orders have been issued or not -- with "sub judice" prosecutions. [Such orders -- except against lawyers and court officers involved in a trial -- and prosecutions would clearly be unconstitutional in the United States.] But these orders and prosecutions, the report concludes, are likely to more difficult -- if not impossible -- to enforce when the trial information is published on social media.

After considering a number of possible solutions, including both the practical and impractical, the report concludes that Australian courts should include discussion of social media in initial orientation of jurors; revise jury instructions to specifically discuss and explain restrictions on social media use; and undertake research on jurors' use of social media to improve these efforts.

As our courts deal with the ongoing emergence and growth of social media, we should realize that it is truly a global phenomenon, and that courts around the world are figuring how to use, accommodate, and control jurors' use of these tools while preserving fair administration of justice.


Hailey Andersen said...

Interesting post. Just as social media is playing a role in the cases themselves, lawyers can now utilize online legal marketing to generate referrals and reach clientele. It truly has changed the game in many areas, but I'm particularly interested on the continued effect it will have on the practice of law.

shrtswmmrgrl said...

It is very interesting that some judges are starting to use social media as part of the trials. Because when social media first came out it was the reason of some trials. People were being bullied online and this was causing people to end their lives. You would think that using social media during a trial would cause some kind of disaster. People post their whole lives on the internet these days. I would think that they could possibly mess up the trial by accidently posting something about it online. How are we supposed to trust that jurors won't post something about their trial online? If something were to be posted it could destroy everything. It could cause people to create sides, form protests and so on. In an article about media in the court room, written by Bill Chappell, it says that once social media was involved it caused the town to become divided into two sides. How can this possibly create a fair trial?

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