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CHICAGO, April 24, 2014 — The American Bar Association Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility has issued a formal opinion that guides a lawyer’s review of the Internet presence of a juror or prospective juror during and before a trial.
Formal Opinion 466 recognizes the growing Internet presence of individuals through electronic social media (ESM) or websites, and it makes the distinction between public and private material. It specifically addresses three levels of lawyer review of juror Internet presence:
The opinion would allow a lawyer to make a passive review of the juror’s public presence on the Internet, but he or she may not actively communicate with the juror. Requesting access to a private area on a juror’s electronic social media page, such as Facebook or LinkedIn, would be considered communication within this framework and would be the type of ex parte communication prohibited by Model Rule 3.5(b).
The ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility periodically issues ethics opinions to guide lawyers, courts and the public in interpreting and applying ABA model ethics rules to specific issues of legal practice, client-lawyer relationships and judicial behavior.
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