Voir Dire in the Age of Google

With the click of a mouse, trial attorneys may gain much more information about a potential juror than a typical juror questionnaire provides. As social networking sites, blogs and Internet forums become a pervasive part of everyday life, adults are increasingly sharing their personal information online. Such individual-generated content provides a vast array of information regarding its author’s social background, education, political views, religious affiliation and life experiences that can lead to valuable insights into how that person might process information and resolve issues. With more than 500 million people on Facebook, 175 million on Twitter, and over 70 million actively using LinkedIn, the Internet has become a powerful tool for jury consultants and trial lawyers to use when selecting a jury and structuring the presentation of evidence.

Courts are now addressing whether Internet research on potential jurors should be allowed. A recent New Jersey appellate court held that counsel can conduct Internet research on potential jurors during voir dire. In Carino v. Muenzen, 2010 WL 3448071 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. Aug. 30, 2010), the trial judge barred the plaintiff’s counsel from “googling” potential jurors during jury selection. The jury subsequently found for the defendant and the plaintiff appealed, arguing that the court acted unreasonably when it barred plaintiff counsel’s Internet use during jury selection. Although the appellate court let the verdict stand due to lack of prejudice, the court did hold that the prohibition on Internet use was unreasonable...

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