Lawyers who want to pick through troves of public information that jurors or potential jurors put on the Internet about themselves may do so, but they may not communicate directly with the jurors, such as asking to “friend” them on Facebook, according to a formal ethics opinion issued by the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professionalism.
Formal opinions are based on the ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which have been adopted by all states except California. The rules are not binding but serve as models that can be adopted or modified. Formal Opinion 466 addresses three situations concerning lawyer review of the Internet footprints of jurors or potential jurors.
• Looking at information available to everyone on a juror’s social media accounts or website when the juror doesn’t know it’s being done. The opinion says the “mere act of observing” is not improper ex parte conduct, much as driving down a juror’s street to get a sense of his or her environs isn’t.
• Asking a juror for access to the his or her social media. The opinion says that is improper, much like stopping the car to ask the juror’s permission to look inside the juror’s house for a better view.
• When a juror finds out, through a notification feature of the social media platform or website, that the lawyer reviewed publicly available information. The formal opinion says the social media provider, not the lawyer, is communicating with the juror, the same as if a neighbor saw the lawyer’s car pass by and told the juror.
Honored to have my first official publication. I wrote this article in January for the ABA Section of Litigation. I was notified this week that it was chosen for their Access to Justice, Spring 2014 Newsletter. Editor’s note – “If you should ever want to publish with us again, please let me know. Your work was great!” Truly humbled by the gesture and looking forward to continuing to write, as well as develop more complex pieces in the future.
Access to Justice
In March of 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice launched an Access to Justice Initiative (ATJ). The mission of the ATJ is to help the justice system efficiently deliver outcomes that are fair and accessible to all, irrespective of wealth and status. The ATJ is guided by three principles: “(1) Promoting Accessibility—eliminating barriers that prevent people from understanding and exercising their rights; (2) Ensuring Fairness—delivering fair and just outcomes for all parties, including those facing financial and other disadvantages; (3) Increasing Efficiency—delivering fair and just outcomes effectively, without waste or duplication.” It should also be noted that the ATJ also includes “collaboration between the DOL [Department of Labor] and the American Bar Association (ABA) to help workers resolve wage and hour complaints” under which “if the DOL can’t resolve a worker’s complaint because of limited capacity, the Department will furnish the complainant with a toll-free number which will connect them with a participating ABA-approved attorney referral provider in their area.”
Crime and Literacy
While the connection between crime and literacy may not be readily apparent, literacy does play a role in crime. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, up to ‘“70% of the incarcerated population is believed to be illiterate in some jurisdictions’ (1999). Many criminals end up in prison because they do not have the literacy skills, the proper education, or the life skills to make it in life the way law-abiding citizens do.” Literacy programs and other initiatives that aim to reduce crime minimize the need for access to justice.
The stressful lifestyle and hectic schedule of practicing lawyers are well documented. There is always more reading, research, or writing to complete, but no assignment can compare to the positive impact of reading to our children. Under constant pressure, we often lose sight of what is truly important, those small gestures that make a huge difference in other people’s lives. The purpose of our profession at heart, after all, is to help create a better living situation for everyone.
To read the article and its entirety see, Reading Aloud to Children and Its Impact on Literacy and Crime
The ABA Midyear Meeting was an amazing experience. The Hyatt Regency Chicago and Swissotel served as host hotels, with the Hyatt set up as headquarters for the ABA Association, and Swissotel the primary meeting grounds for the Youth Lawyers Division. Wind chills left temperatures feeling near negative 20 degrees, so the underground pedway connecting the properties was nothing short of a miracle.
Prior to arriving, I reviewed the available program itenary and chose to sign up for the Anatomy of ADR and Law School to Law Practice event. I arrived at the Swissotel early Friday morning unsure of what to expect – it was my first ABA national meeting…
Law School to Law Practice:
The description, “program discusses the pros and cons of starting a solo practice, and how one succeeds after he or she has committed to the objective of making it as a solo practitioner.” Attending simply made sense. Topics discussed may be useful to any young attorney in launching their career. The program was orchestrated by the YLD Solo Practitioners. Chris Blaylock, of the Law Offices of C.W. Blaylock served as the moderator, along with Orly Ahrony, and Elizabeth “Jodi” McShan as panelist.
The program was planned for one hour, which I predicted to be quite challenging. One hour is not enough to cover almost anything in the legal profession, let alone explain how to launch and develop a firm. Nonetheless, the panelist gave it their best shot.
The material was broken down into three sections: Marketing and Accounting; Networking/Retaining a Client/Client Communications; and the Pros and Cons of Running a Small Firm. Opening slides listed basic information easily discoverable online with little research, but in the interest of ensuring that everyone was on the same page I understood the purpose. Additionally, it made it super convenient and helpful for future reference. Later slides, discussed in detail best practices for a solo practitioner along with recommended resources.
For the next few days, I will be in Chicago attending the 2014 ABA Midyear Meeting. The ABA promises a wonderful program and I am looking forward to the educational fun experience. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to be selected as a delegate for PA’s Youth Lawyer Division. Reviewing proposals and resolutions is sure to be interesting.
Other seminars I plan to attend include: Law School to Law Practice and the Anatomy of ADR.
Stay tuned for blog posts and updates!