Monday, August 10, 2009

Tweets, Texts, and Other Messaging in the Courtroom

Gadgets can gum up trials. Examples: jurors going online to research facts not presented in evidence, a witness texting another company official for advice about testimony, a spectator's phone ringing with a rousing chorus of "Louie, Louie," someone recording proceedings, jurors tweeting about deliberations.

But gadgets aren't all bad. Sometimes a lawyer needs to contact someone back at the office, or get a message that a witness is stuck in traffic.

Katherine A. Helm suggests reforms:

The best way to manage this problem is one that only a handful of courts across the country have adopted: Allow preauthorized counsel to bring electronic devices into the courtroom and make all other courtroom attendees (jurors, witnesses, observers) check their devices in the lobby. The Southern District of New York is testing out such an interim rule now, where authorization can be given only by specific court order — although being forced to specify each device for each named attorney each day might be overkill.
Katherine A. Helm, Courtrooms all atwitter, Nat'l L.J., Aug. 10, 2009.

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