Juror Tweets Updates During the Trial… Thoughts?

A juror tweets informational updates about a trial she is serving on. The updates are considered public information that the press and media may report and is not confidential. Her tweets do not state her opinion or a conclusion about the case. After day 3 of the trial, the defense attorney becomes aware of the tweets. At this point in the trial, the prosecution has rested its case. The judge has also instructed the jury at the beginning of the trial to not blog, Google, Tweet or Facebook post anything about the trial. Does the defense attorney have an ethical obligation to alert the court and the prosecutor?

As for an attorney’s ethical obligation to reveal such information, the Model Rules of Professional Conduct have not kept pace with technological advancements. Further, these rules may be unclear as to when an attorney must report a juror to the court. Take a look at Model Rule of Professional Conduct 3.3 Candor Toward The Tribunal, which “requires a lawyer to take reasonable remedial measures, including disclosure if necessary, whenever the lawyer knows that a person… intends to engage, is engaging or has engaged in criminal or fraudulent conduct related to the proceeding.”

Also, Model Rule 3.3 Candor Toward The Tribunal comment 12 states:

“Lawyers have a special obligation to protect a tribunal against criminal or fraudulent conduct that undermines the integrity of the adjudicative process, such as bribing, intimidating or otherwise unlawfully communicating with a witness, juror, court official or other participant in the proceeding, unlawfully destroying or concealing documents or other evidence [,] or failing to disclose information to the tribunal when required by law to do so.”

Does the defense attorney have an ethical obligation under Model Rule 3.3 and comment 12 of Rule 3.3 to report the jurors misconduct to the court? What would be the best way to handle this situation?



One thought on “Juror Tweets Updates During the Trial… Thoughts?”

  1. Interesting issue, and one that highlights the sharp divide between technology and the law. The logical way to resolve this would be by evaluating whether the particular tweet “undermined the integrity of the adjudicative process.” But what concerns me about this test is that it is a bit too subjective and allows for a slippery slope. It seems to me that if the judge forbid the use of social media at the beginning of the trial, then she is in contempt. Given the lawyers loyalty the court first, perhaps the better the lawyer does have an obligation to report the jurors violation of the judges instruction. Regardless, the area is murky, but as you point out, is there a need for a new rule? I am not sure either

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