Better Not Friend That Prospective Juror

The Ethics Rules that apply to lawyers frequently require a balancing act. On the one hand, lawyers are ethically required to zealously advocate on behalf of their clients, but at the same time abide by any number of restrictions on their behavior in the process of that zealous representation. A recent opinion by the New York City Bar on Juror Research and Social Media is a good example. The opinion notes that lawyers are expected to research the jury pool and inform the court of any issues that would affect a juror’s ability to fairly decide the case. But a party to a case or the lawyer cannot communicate in any way with a prospective juror. So how does that relate to social media? It’s actually pretty straightforward. The opinion says a lawyer can view a prospective juror’s social media activity that is accessible via a search engine, but can’t in any way interact with the juror. So that means the lawyer can’t friend the juror or otherwise “sign up to receive new postings as they are generated.” And the lawyer can’t have someone else sign up for him. Yea, they thought of that too. That language seems broad enough to prohibit following a prospective juror on Twitter. And if the lawyer does view the social media activity in an acceptable manner, he or she must promptly reveal any improper conduct to the court. I’m sure the folks who drafted the ethics rules never imagined the concept of social media (we lawyers aren’t that creative) but the fundamentals underlying the rules apply nonetheless.