The American Bar Association has determined that it is ethical for lawyers to search the internet for publicly available information on citizens called for jury duty — and even jurors in deliberations.
The ABA issued its report in April of this year which states that unless limited by law or court order, a lawyer may review a juror or potential juror “Internet presence” which could even include postings by the juror during a trial. The ABA did state that attorneys are not allowed to communicate directly with the jurors, such as asking to “friend” them on Facebook.
The ABA noted that there was a strong public interest in identifying jurors who may be tainted by improper bias or prejudice. Further, lawyers need to know the where the line is drawn as to what constitutes an impermissible communication to a juror.
One of the examples given was an attorney who was investigating a juror’s LinkedIn page. The juror received a notification that the lawyer had looked at his page. Did this act constitute an impermissible communication to a juror? The ABA opinion analogized it to a situation where a lawyer was driving down the street where the prospective juror lives in order to investigate him, and a neighbor recognized the lawyer’s vehicle and told the juror. In this case, the lawyer would not be considered to have “communicated” with the juror. Similarly, since it was the LinkedIn service which alerted the juror, it did not mean that the lawyers engaged in a communication with the juror.
The full opinion can be found here.