Limits on Lawyers’ Ability to Research Jurors?

One reads regularly of the problems courts have in restricting jurors from researching cases in front of them, so that they get only the evidence properly before them and the arguments subject to judicial control.

What of restrictions on lawyers who want to get out-of-court information about jurors, ideally in time to challenge them at the time of their selection, but also to tailor arguments and maybe even appeal results?

A US judge has recently asked for detailed submissions from Oracle and Google as part of their ongoing patent litigation, to say why they should be able to research jurors at all and with what limits – questions of both ethics and practicality.

It appears to the Court that both sides intend to email or text the names and places of residences of venire members as soon as they are called forward to waiting squads of Internet investigators, who will feed results to counsel table via reverse text or email. If the social media and other investigation conducted by counsel actually develops information which counsel wish to use during voir dire to examine a prospective juror, then counsel must be prepared themselves to confront the prospective juror with that information.

Here is the judge’s most recent set of questions for counsel.

s this kind of research done in Canada – given our much lower use of juries in civil cases? Is it proper? Should it be subject to judicial control?

Is there in fact an arguable parallel between the lawyers using social media to check out the jurors, and the jurors using social media to check out the case, or the lawyers?

John G


  1. Apparently the judicial reservations about research on jurors, and the conditions the judge was going to impose on this research, notably its disclosure, persuaded the parties (this time at least) not to bother.

    is that a success, from your point of view?