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New Instructions Discourage Jurors' Social Media Use

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By Robyn Hagan Cain on August 23, 2012 10:04 AM

If you have an iPhone or an interest in intellectual property law, you may have been following the Apple/Samsung trial over the last few weeks.

Yesterday, the epic trial concluded with hours of closing arguments. Those arguments came after the hours of jury instructions. (District Judge Lucy Koh spent two hours reading 109 pages of jury instructions to the court before the attorneys got to the good stuff.)

Make no mistake: jury instructions are important, especially in a high-stakes trial. That’s why you should be aware of the new guidelines on social media and electronics use in the model jury instructions.

The official document, Proposed Model Jury Instructions The Use of Electronic Technology to Conduct Research on or Communicate about a Case, is available here.

The new guidelines provide detailed explanations of the consequences of social media use during a trial, along with recommendations for repeated reminders of the ban on social media usage.

Judge Julie A. Robinson, CACM Committee chair explained that judges requested that jurors be reminded throughout the trial that social media discussions about the case are unacceptable.

"The judges recommended that jurors frequently be reminded about the prohibition on social media before the trial, at the close of a case, at the end of each day before jurors return home, and other times, as appropriate. Jurors should be told why refraining from use of social media promotes a fair trial. Finally, jurors should know the consequences of violations during trial, such as mistrial and wasted time. Those recommendations are now part of the guidelines," Judge Robinson said.

Along with the guidelines, trial judges will be provided with a poster stressing the importance of jurors making decisions based on information presented only in the courtroom. (That means jurors shouldn't be turning to Twitter or Wikipedia for additional facts.) The poster is designed to be displayed in the jury deliberation room or other areas where jurors congregate.

Do you think social media has posed a problem for litigants in the Third Circuit of Appeals? Will these new jury instructions help?

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