According to the Clerk for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, a jury scam is making its way around the US. Threatening homeowners with prosecution for failing to appear for state or federal jury service, callers are trying to coerce people into revealing sensitive information like social security numbers and credit card numbers. The ND of Ohio has confirmed that "Federal courts do not require anyone to provide any sensitive information in a telephone call. Most contact between a federal court and a prospective juror will be through the U.S. Mail." Apparently, the scams are surfacing in New Mexico, Utah and Colorado.
In a recent news release, the U.S. Courts' system has announced the creation of a proposed, new, model jury instruction on the use of social media during trials in federal court. A Judicial Conference Committee created the proposed instruction in an attempt to curb jury misuse of social media tools to research cases and communicate about them while the cases are pending. The instruction not only contains guidelines on instructing the jury before, during, and at the end of trial, but it also addresses violations and the consequences jurors can face.
Permits municipal courts to set their own fees (1901.25)
Establishes that a jury commissioner may be a court employee (2313.01)
Authorizes courts to order the beginning date of the jury year (2313.05)
Authorizes courts to order the number of jurors to be drawn or leave to commissioners discretion, adds that court can order a additional number of jurors at any time (2313.07)
Establishes that questionnaires used for voir dire should have a prominent legend advising the juror of the right to request and have an in-camera interview, clarifies that counsel present at the in-camera hearing is that of the parties, not that a juror has counsel present. (2313.11 and 2313.18)
Requires the court to file an order regarding the retention period for all documents/electronic media filed with commissioners of jurors. (2313.23)
Authorizes courts in civil cases, where the jury is called but the case is settled, to tax incurred civil jury fees. (2335.28)
Authorizes courts in criminal cases to assess jury fees as cost if defendant enters a plea of guilty or no contest less than 24 hours before the scheduled trial. (2947.23)
An article in the Wall Street Journal indicates that lawyers are using the technology available through facebook to check for juror biases and possible dispositions on legal issues. Sometimes this leads to kicking off a juror, but it is clearly not fullproof. The article relates a criminal case where defense cousel tried to facebook a jury, but the client was still convicted and sentenced to death. Although the article suggests that traditional voir dire questions elicit more valuable information, judges may not be able to prohibit lawyers from bringing a laptop to class and checking out the potential jurors during the process. The article concludes by suggesting that the possibilities are endless for finding information on people through other sites such as blogs.
According to the Mansfield News Journal, two (2) jurors who visited a crime scene over lunch, in violation of the judge's orders, have been fined for the costs of a mistrial in the case of a defendant accused of murder. According to the article, the jurors could have been sentenced to 30 days in jail, but Judge DeWeese only imposed monetary sanctions and made the jurors write apologies to the defendant, the families of the victim, and the other jurors. Who tipped off the judge?----another juror.
A study I reviewed today from the Conference of Court Public Information Officers (CCPIO) indicates that judges and courts are seeing more use of social media by jurors and others appearing in their courtrooms. A link for the survey can be found on the home page of the CCPIO website or in the September 15th issue of FYI from ohiojudges.org. Some of the media judges and jurors are using include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, iphones, blogs, etc. Not only are a surprisingly high percentatge of judges using these utilities in their personal lives, but some courts are even creating forums using these tools to distribute court information. The survey underlying the report concludes that these numbers will increase and recommends that courts and judicial associations develop online resources, best practices and other tools to "maintain the delicate balance between free speech and open access to courts on one side and fair trial issues on the other."
As part of a legislative proposal to modify jury service rules in Ohio, the Ohio Judicial Conference would like to obtain greater power to charge the costs of impaneling juries to civil litigants who settle at the 11th hour and criminal defendants who plead guilty at the last minute. The judges would also like to clarify the rules that govern situations when jurors request in camera conferences before answering voir dire questions in public. Click here to read the proposed changes the Conference would like to make to O.R.C. secs 2313.11, 2335.28, and 2947.23.
For those of you who conduct a lot of voir dire and have purchased an iPad,iJuror may be just the tool you need. The specs on this tool look good for keeping track of potential jurors, their information, and their biases.
The Ohio State Bar Association has recommended a new jury instruction for judges to give to jurors. Concerns over jurors looking outside the confines of a case for evidence and other information has prompted the OSBA to recommend that judges instruct jurors not to use social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or technology, such as iPhones and Blackberrys. The proposed instruction is not, however, limited to technological devices or internet sites and includes reference books, newspapers, magazines, TV, and radio news. According to Justice Lanzinger, the goal of the proposed instruction is to ensure that parties receive a fair trial. Click here to read a press release from the Ohio Supreme Court about the new proposal. According to the OSBA website, the new jury instruction is available through Casemaker. This link from the OSBA press release may take you to the text of the proposed instruction, although you may have to sign in online as a member of the OSBA first.
The recent issue of OBAR reports that the Ohio State Bar Association has puslished new jury instructions on Casemaker, including those covering Ohio ethics law conflicts of interest (O.R.C. sec. 102.03(E), common law defenses-duress, diminution of value, breach of confidentiality, breach of confidentiality of medical records to a third party, compromise verdicts, and complete instructions for a basic personal injury case. The OSBA has also partnered with the Ohio Judicial Conference to create a new OJI Chapter 349 on Privacy, that will include instructions on 1) invasion of privacy, publication of private facts; 2) invasion of privacy, common law; 3) invasion of privacy, appropriation of name or likeness; 4) invasion of privacy, intrusion into private affairs; and 5) invasion of privacy, false light.