At its December 2009 meeting, the Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management (CACM) endorsed a set of suggested jury instructions intended to prohibit jurors from using electronic technology to research or communicate about cases during jury service. The model instructions address the escalating problem of jurors using devices such as cellular telephones and computers to conduct research on the Internet or to communicate about cases being tried. The Committee suggested that district court judges use the model instructions to help jurors better understand and adhere to the scope of the prohibition against the use of electronic devices.
The Committee suggested that judges should instruct jurors both before and after trial that the use of electronic devices and media, including use of telephones, e-mail, cell phones, Blackberries, iPhones, text messages, Twitter, blogs or Web sites, Internet chat rooms, and any other social networking Web site, including Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and YouTube, to research or to communicate with anyone about the case is prohibited.
The Committee noted that the use of various forms of electronic technologies has resulted in mistrials, jurors being excluded and fines being imposed. The Committee believes that district court judges need to be explicit in the jury instructions about the restrictions on methods and modes of electronic communication. These specific instructions are intended to combat unintended consequences that disrupt trials.
The exact text of the model jury instructions can be found at http://www.uscourts.gov/newsroom/2010/DIR10-018.pdf.
The Judicial Conference operates through a network of committees created to address and advise on a wide variety of subjects. The CACM Committee makes recommendations on matters affecting case management, jury administration and other court operational issues. The Committee is specifically tasked with reviewing initiatives on the development of electronic technologies to measure the effects technology is having on case management and the administration of justice.
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