U.S. Judges Report Little Juror Misuse of Social Media

Despite anecdotal evidence of jurors misbehaving when using the Internet and social media (for instance, the recent article on Slaw English Court Jails Juror Who Used Internet Search), a recent survey of members of the U.S. federal judiciary reveals that the problem appears less widespread than many assume.

The Federal Judicial Center was asked by a committee of the policy-making Judicial Conference of the United States to survey federal judges on the issue (response rate was 53%).

The results, based on the responses of 508 responding judges, indicate that detected social media use by jurors is infrequent, and that most judges have taken steps to ensure jurors do not use social media in the courtroom. The most common strategy is incorporating social media use into jury instructions (…) Also common are the practice of reminding jurors on a regular basis not to use social media to communicate during trial or deliberations, explaining the reasons behind the ban on social media, and confiscating electronic devices in the courtroom. Judges admit that it is difficult to police jurors.

Only 30 of the 508 judges who responded reported instances of detected social media use by jurors during trials or deliberations.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the situation is similar in Canada.

Maybe all the fuss over Juror (Mis)Behavior in the Information Age is exaggerated. Of course, it is also possible that a lot of the illicit juror tweeting, Google searching, LinkedIn’ing and Facebooking may very well escape the attention of judges. Most judges find out about juror misuse of Net media from tattling by other jurors or lawyers (perhaps lawyers who feel they are losing the case?).



  1. You should not use the word “tattling” to refer to the actions of jurors who tell the judge that a juror has disobeyed the judge’s instructions. “Tattling” suggests that you subscribe to the rules of the elementary school playground, not to the rules that should govern a responsible adult. You also seem to suggest that it is wrong for a lawyer, losing or not, to tell the judge that a juror has done what he or she should not have done.

  2. Interesting word “tattling” with a range of definitions:

    From OED:

    The action of the verb tattle v.

    †1. Faltering, stammering; prattling; baby-talk.
    1481 Caxton tr. Hist. Reynard Fox (1970) 61 But who can gyue to his lesynge a conclusion, and prononce it without tatelyng [orig. ende seit sine woerden sonder tatelen].
    1749 H. Fielding Tom Jones VI. xviii. xiii. 303 He declares the tattling of his little Grand-Daughter, who is above a Year and half old, is sweeter Music than the finest Cry of Dogs in England.

    2. Idle talking; chattering, prating; gossiping; blabbing, tale-telling.
    1547 in J. Strype Eccl. Mem. (1721) II. iv. 24 [Barlow, bishop of S. Davids‥preached at court‥urging‥a redress of several abuses in religion.‥ The Bishop of Winchester‥was mightily disturbed at it, calling it] his tattling.
    a1616 Shakespeare Merry Wives of Windsor (1623) iv. i. 23 Peace, your tatlings.
    1673 R. Allestree Ladies Calling i. i. §12 When ’tis remembred that St. Paul makes tatling the effect of idleness.
    1693 T. Urquhart & P. A. Motteux tr. Rabelais 3rd Bk. Wks. iii. xiii. 106 The‥tatling of Jackdaws,‥kekling of Hens.
    a1720 W. Sewel Hist. Quakers (1795) I. iv. 364 We do it in private to keep you from tattling.
    1825 T. Hook Sayings & Doings 2nd Ser. I. 323 So that no discovery‥might be made by any tattling amongst the servants.

  3. Could it be that this problem is less common in North America because, here, the jurors are drawn from a segment of society made up of people who’d never think of doing something they’d been told NOT to by the judge?