The ethics experts of the legal profession have their work cut out for them when it comes to the internet and legal ethics. With the emergence of new social media platforms, there is a constant need for evolution of regulations.
Social media communication can be a difficult realm to navigate. In several states, bar association ethics committees published opinions on the topic. The opinions can serve as a good resource for attorneys.
Below is a summary of their opinions:
1 Attorneys are permitted to use social media in order to research jurors or adverse parties; however
2 Ethics committees do not permit attorneys to communicate with jurors via social media platforms.
3 Ethics committees do not permit attorneys or their employees to connect with jurors.
4 If an attorney discovers through publicly posted information evidence of juror misconduct, he/she must report it to the court.
Jurors may not communicate with others about the trial. However, the ease and anonymity of the internet can sometimes serve as a perilous temptation. Some states have added new sections to their juror instructions in order to directly address this issue.
Common websites banned are: search engines, Google Maps, Wikipedia, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and chat rooms. Jurors may not use mobile devices during trial or deliberations.
With the continued rise of new social media outlets and internet research and communication, ethics committees in other areas are sure to follow suit in order to protect the integrity of the legal process.