Friday, January 15, 2010

Petition Filed In Florida Supreme Court To Limit Juror Use Of Social Media

A petition was filed in the Florida Supreme Court yesterday to limit the use of social media by jurors.  The petition was prompted by the following:
On August 26, 2009, Justice R. Fred Lewis wrote letters requesting that the Florida Supreme Court Committees for Standard Jury Instructions in Civil and Criminal Cases consider “the problem of jurors engaging in electronic communications, research or the use of technology by jurors during a pending case.”  These letters explained that the Michigan Supreme Court had recently approved a rule banning jurors from using electronic devices during trial and adopted a specific jury instruction on this issue. In the letters, Justice Lewis asked the Civil and Criminal Committees to “jointly propose a uniform approach along with uniform jury instructions to be used in all cases,” in a report filed by January 11, 2010.
The proposal:
The Civil and Criminal Committees propose that this Court use the same core language in both civil and criminal cases to instruct jurors on their use of electronic devices. In this age of electronic communication, many jurors are accustomed to having the ability to instantly communicate with others or perform immediate Internet research.
The Committees recommend that the qualifications instruction be given to all jurors when they are still in a jury assembly room during the qualifications stage and before they have entered a courtroom. While the information heard by jurors before they enter a courtroom is not technically an “instruction,” both committees feel it is important for this Court to consider giving standard language on this issue as early as possible.
The Committees further recommend that jurors be instructed on the use of electronic devices at multiple points in the proceedings: (1) preliminary instructions before voir dire begins; (2) preliminary instructions after voir dire ends and the jury is sworn; and (3) closing instructions. The committees propose using slightly different language at each stage of the proceeding.
The Committees propose inserting identical language into the preliminary instructions. The Committees propose slightly different language for the closing instruction. The Civil Committee asks this Court to instruct the jury: “Do not contact anyone to assist you, such as a family accountant, doctor, or lawyer.” The Criminal Committee, in closing instruction 3.13, felt that references to accountants, doctors, or lawyers are not germane to criminal cases. The Criminal Committee unanimously voted to revise this sentence to read: “Do not contact anyone to assist you during deliberations.”
The petition is below:
Social Media Petition 1-15-2010

Exhibits to the petition can be found at the following links:
Exhibit A;
Exhibit B;
Exhibit C;
Exhibit D;
Exhibit E;
Exhibit F;
Exhibit G; and
Exhibit H.


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