Get the tech outta my courtroom!
I know the feeling. You’ve gotten so accustom to whipping out your PDA in so many unusual places, you figure all grounds are fair game, right? Wrong. If you think you’re going to use your spanking new iPhone to entertain yourself next time you’re on jury duty, think again. Judges are going to take an even dimmer view of jury member use of Blackberry, iPhone or other electronic devices as a judicial policy-setting group has told district judges they should restrict jurors from using electronic technologies to research or communicate.
I feel ya. This seems lame, but it’s already gone to the high court. The Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management for the United States District Courts said it developed instructions that would be issued by judges, “to address the increasing incidence of juror use of such devices as cellular telephones or computers to conduct research on the Internet or communicate with others about cases.” Such use has resulted in mistrials, exclusion of jurors, and imposition of fines. The suggested instructions specifically inform jurors that they are prohibited from using these technologies in the courtroom, in deliberations, or outside the courthouse to communicate about or research cases on which they currently serve, the group stated.
Specifically, those instruction spell out that jurors should not you should not consult dictionaries or reference materials, search the internet, websites, blogs, or use any other electronic tools to obtain information either before the trial, during deliberations or after until the judge instructs otherwise.
The instructions state jurors must not use cell phones, e-mail, Blackberry, iPhone, text messaging, or on Twitter, or communicate through any blog or website, through any internet chat room, or by way of any other social networking websites, including Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and YouTube.
“The Committee believes that more explicit mention in jury instructions of the various methods and modes of electronic communication and research would help jurors better understand and adhere to the scope of the prohibition against the use of these devices,” the group stated.
The across the board recommendations against electronic devices comes as many have called for an outright ban of such devices in courtrooms. A number of states have enacted bans on the devices. It’s the end of the world as we know it. The question is: what IS prohibited? Understand that “any” electronic device means IPod Touch, Zune, or any other sophisticated mp3 player. A bailiff won’t take the time to make the distinction between an iPhone and an iTouch. We’re back in elementary school again, people, when the teacher caught us reading a Batman comic behind our History book. Well, maybe that was just me, but you see my point.
I’m all for privacy and the delicate sensitivity of courtroom chatter, but there are easier fixes. If accessing the web is such a major deal, simply disable WiFi and all IP traffic. Problem solved. Sometimes an iPod is the only thing that can help you survive the jury pool mediation session. And those movies? Please. I guess it’s backing to reading books, which I actually don’t mind. I’ve got several eBooks to keep me entertained for hours. I can’t wait to take my iPad with me to my next jury duty assignment. Oh. Wait. Damn.