Using Google to Research Potential Jurors During Jury Selection

Have you ever thought about using Google during jury selection to research potential jurors? Although there are no Texas appellate cases addressing this issue (yet), there is a recent case out of New Jersey that may be a sign of things to come.

During jury selection in a medical malpractice case, plaintiff’s counsel began using his laptop to Google potential jurors and learn additional information about them.  When the trial judge realized what plaintiff’s counsel was doing, the following exchange occurred:

THE COURT: Are you Googling these [potential jurors]?

[PLAINTIFFS COUNSEL]: Your Honor, there’s no code law that says I’m not allowed to do that. I-any courtroom-

THE COURT: Is that what you’re doing?

[PLAINTIFFS COUNSEL]: I’m getting information on jurors-we’vie done it all the time, everyone does it. It’s not unusual. It’s not. There’s no rule, no case or any suggestion in any case that says-

THE COURT: No, no, here is the rule. The rule is it’s my courtroom and I control it.

The judge prohibited plaintiff’s counsel from using Google.  The jury ultimately found for the defendant and the plaintiff appealed the trial court’s decision that counsel could not make use of the internet (wireless access was provided in the courthouse) during jury selection.

The appellate court found the trial court’s prohibition was unreasonable and held the following:

There was no suggestion that counsel’s use of the computer was in any way disruptive. That he had the foresight to bring his laptop computer to court, and defense counsel did not, simply cannot serve as a basis for judicial intervention in the name of “fairness” or maintaining “a level playing field.” The “playing field” was, in fact, already “level” because internet access was open to both counsel, even if only one of them chose to utilize it.

The appellate court let the defense verdict stand, however, because the plaintiff failed to show any prejudice from the ruling.

The case is Carino v. Muensen, 2010 WL 3448071 (N.J. Super A.D. August 30, 2010).