Category Archives: Legal Ethics & Social Media

SEARCH REVEALS HUNDREDS OF IMPROPER JUROR SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS PER DAY (PART 2)

By John Patzakis

In response to our post two weeks ago identifying widespread social media abuse by jurors that could quite possibly lead to mistrials, a frightened prosecutor and others have inquired about how exactly juror’s social media data should be collected and what the various techniques are. So this follow-up post discusses the mechanics of proactively monitoring jurors that are both empaneled and potential members of your pool.

First and foremost, it is important to understand what not to do. Do not fire up Twitter.com and start following jurors. They will receive a notice that they’re being followed, which is improper under various legal ethics rules. Also, it is not effective technically, as you cannot access or search past tweets very effectively (which are often just as important as ones in real time), and it is very difficult to monitor up to several dozen jurors in your pool.

The right software will allow you to employ several techniques and methods, which are most effective when used in conjunction to comprehensively and ethically search for all publicly available juror social media.

The first method is to set a geo-fence around the courthouse and immediate area. This will collect tweets and Instagram posts in real time, as well as going back several days if needed, to collect any tweet that is geo-located in that area. Here is an example of such an effort:geo fence

Another advantage of this method is that it will capture any geo-located social media posts by not only jurors at the courthouse but also by opposing counsel or witnesses, which happens more often that you would think. Expert witnesses in particular can be prolific on social media as they promote their services and their personal brand. They also often Tweet and share approvingly links to industry articles and blog articles, which can then be considered to be part of their opinion record.

The second method is to set keywords such as #juryduty or “jury duty” across the public feed of social media sites. This will cast a wider net, returning posts from all over the country if not the world. But with the right tools you can quickly be able to filter out the ones that are within your geographical location. This will also capture posts that are not Geotagged by the user.  If your case has any media attention, even just locally or within industry media verticals, it is a very good idea to set up keywords that can identify any mention of your case in public feeds.

And just for fun, here are the top 5 controversial juror posts from just the past few days:

bad tweets

And finally, once you have identified an impaneled juror or a member of the potential pool, and have their social media profile names,  you can quickly and anonymously collect all their past and ongoing public social media content through special software such as X1 Social Discovery. This also has the advantage of instantaneous and unified search across all available social media streams from multiple jurors. You also can set up email alerts so that if a juror or other person of interest posts anything, you will immediately be alerted to that post. This is also an effective technique when following opposing counsel or key witnesses. And it’s often a good idea to your monitor your own clients as well.

For more information about how to conduct effective social medial investigations, please contact us, or request a free demo version of X1 Social Discovery.

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Filed under Uncategorized, Best Practices, Legal Ethics & Social Media, Social Media Investigations, Case Study

Search Reveals Hundreds of Improper Juror Social Media Posts Per Day

By John Patzakis

The Federal Judicial Center (“FJC”) recently published a report surveying 952 federal district court judges to identify the scope of jurors’ improper use of social media during trial and how the courts are addressing the problem. The FJC’s report, Jurors’ Use of Media During Trials and Deliberations, reflects that despite various prevention efforts, jurors continue to use Facebook, Twitter, Google and other sites in several, and that the courts continue to struggle to detect such usage. According to the survey results, 30 judges identified incidents of improper juror social media usage,

Such misconduct can easily result in a mistrial or even reversal of judgement. In State v. Smith, Sept. 10, 2013, the Tennessee Supreme court vacated a first degree murder conviction on the sole grounds that one of the jurors communicated with a prosecution witness during trial via Facebook. The court lamented that Internet and social media “has exponentially increased the risk….of extra-judicial communications between jurors and third parties.” This decision is but one example of this common occurrence of juror misconduct through social media use, requiring attorneys and jury consultants to engage in on-going passive monitoring of publicly available social media information.

In fact we recently did our own search of the Twittersphere with X1 Social Discovery, and uncovered several hundred improper Juror tweets in a single day (1/13/2016). Here is a small sampling:

juror tweets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(click to enlarge)

It is thus no surprise lawyers are increasingly using Twitter to investigate and monitor potential and impaneled jurors. However, this type of monitoring activity can lead to serious attorney ethics violations if direct or even indirect communications are sent to the juror as a result of such monitoring activities. (See e.g. New York County Law Association Formal Opinion No. 743, May 18, 2011). Proxies hired by attorneys, including eDiscovery service providers, investigators and jury consultants are subject to these restrictions, which can also apply to social media communications with witnesses or opposing parties who are represented by counsel.

For this reason, X1 Social Discovery features a specialized “public follow” feature that enables access to all the past Tweets of a specified user (up to 3200 past tweets) and any new Tweets in real-time without generating a formal “follow” request with the resulting problematic communication.. These legal ethics rules concerning indirect social media communications underscores the importance of employing best practices technology to search and collect social media evidence for investigative and eDiscovery purposes.

Collecting evidence in a manner that prevents, or at minimum, does not require that attorneys and their proxies directly or indirectly communicate with the subjects from whom they are collecting social media evidence is a core requirement for solutions that truly address investigative and eDiscovery requirements for social media. In addition to preserving and authenticating social media evidence in a proper manner, X1 Social Discovery provides fast and comprehensive searching of the data in a manner unmatched by any other technology.

It can even potentially prevent a possible mistrial through early detection of a juror’s improper Tweets or Facebook postings.

UPDATED:  Attorney Ignatius Grande, co-chair of the New York State Bar Committee on Social Media, contacted me in response to this post, to point to the Committee’s recently published Social Media Jury Instruction Report. The report describes the scope and challenges from juror social media use during voir dire and trial, as well as proposed amendments to standard jury instructions address such juror misconduct.

 

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January 27, 2016 · 6:12 PM

Social Media Ethics Webinar with Lewis Brisbois

On Thursday March 1, I will be speaking along with social media expert lawyer John Browning of Lewis Brisbois, and Josh Rosenberg of LexisNexis in a complimentary webinar addressing ethics and social media evidence.  The webinar will address this fundamental question: As social media evidence is relevant to just about any type of civil or criminal case, and in an age where 65% of adult Americans have at least one social networking profile, how does this impact an lawyer’s ethical duty of competency if they fail to account for relevant evidence from social networking sites in their cases?

1 hour of Ethics CLE is approved in CA, IL, NY, AK, AZ and pending in many other States. You can register here.  We are very excited to be hosting this webinar with over 525 registrations already! I hope you can join us online.

UPDATE (from March 2):  The webinar recording  is now available for your viewing, however, CLE credit is not available for the recording at this time.

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The Affirmative Legal Duty to Address Social Media Evidence (Guest Attorney Blogger Edition)

John G. Browning

Today we are pleased to welcome a guest attorney blogger, John Browning who is a partner in the Dallas office of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP.  John is a frequent writer and speaker on issues related to social media and the law, and the author of the book The Lawyer’s Guide to Social Networking: Understanding Social Media’s Impact on the Law (West Publishing 2010):


John Patzakis’ December 12, 2011
, post on attorneys having an affirmative duty to address social media evidence was spot on.  The commentary by the Maryland appellate court in Griffin v. Maryland that lawyers “as a matter of professional competence” should be investigating social media avenues in their cases represents just the latest in a number of opinions from around the country that demonstrate that the lawyer who ignores online resources does so at his own peril.

For example, in a 2010 Missouri Supreme Court case, Johnson v. McCullough, the court appeared to impose an affirmative duty on attorneys to make online investigation a key part of their jury selection.  In the underlying medical malpractice case, plaintiff’s counsel asked the panel during voir dire about any previous history of lawsuits, and one venire member did not respond.  After a defense verdict, the plaintiff’s counsel investigated that juror’s civil litigation history online (using Missouri’s PACER-like service, Case.net), only to discover that the juror had been a defendant in several debt collection matters and a personal injury case. Plaintiff’s counsel moved for a mistrial; after it was granted, the defense appealed.  The Missouri Supreme Court not only upheld the defense verdict, it also added some pretty strong language about attorneys’ responsibilities “[i]n light of advances in technology allowing greater access to information.”  Saying that “it is appropriate to place a greater burden on the parties to bring such matters to the court’s attention earlier on in a case, the court held that “a party must (emphasis added) use reasonable efforts to examine the litigation history on Case.net of those jurors selected but not empanelled and must present to the trial court any relevant information prior to trial.”

Courts in other states considering due diligence issues have recognized a “duty to Google,” if you will.  An Indiana appellate court in Munster v. Groce was incredulous that the plaintiff’s attorney had failed to Google the absent defendant Groce as a matter of due diligence, noting that the court itself had done so and immediately obtained search results that included a different address for Groce as well as an obituary for Groce’s mother listing numerous relatives who might have known his whereabouts.  And in Dubois ex rel. Butler, a Florida appellate court questioned the effectiveness of an attorney who had only checked directory assistance in order to get an address to serve a defendant, calling such a method in the age of the Internet the equivalent of “the horse and buggy and the eight track stereo.”  In a Louisiana case, Weatherly v. Optimum Asset Management, the appellate court upheld a trial judge’s rejection of a party’s due diligence claims where that judge had conducted his own Internet search and concluded that the proper contact information for the defendant was “reasonably ascertainable.”

Beyond this clear trend toward requiring greater digital savvy on the part of attorneys, ethical rules also mandate that a professionally responsible lawyer should not ignore social media.  Rule 1.1 of the ABA Model Rules requires lawyers to be competent in representation of their clients, with Comment 6 advising that lawyers “should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice.”  In an age in which Facebook has amassed 800 million users worldwide and studies show that 65% of adult Americans have at least one social networking profile, how competent or diligent is the lawyer who fails to take information from social networking sites into account?

John Browning may be contacted at jbrowning@lbbslaw.com.

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