TO GOOGLE DURING JURY SELECTION OR NOT TO GOOGLE DURING JURY SELECTION – THAT IS THE QUESTION

Recently, the New Jersey Appellate Division ruled that during jury selection, an attorney may utilize his laptop through a wireless connection to Google the names of potential jurors. In Carino v. Muenzen, 210 W.L. 3448071 (App. Div. 2010), which was a medical malpractice case, plaintiff’s counsel was using his laptop to Google the names of potential jurors during voir dire. During voir dire, the Judge asked the plaintiff’s counsel if he was utilizing his laptop to Google the names of potential jurors. Plaintiff’s counsel advised the court that he was indeed doing so. The trial Judge ordered counsel to discontinue Googling the names of the potential jurors as the Judge felt it gave plaintiff’s counsel an unfair advantage over defense counsel who did not have a laptop present.

On appeal, one of the issues addressed by the Appellate Division was whether or not the trial Judge had the discretion to order plaintiff’s counsel to stop using his computer to Google the names of potential jurors. The Appellate Division noted that New Jersey state courts provide free wireless internet access for anyone with a laptop. As such, it did not accept the trial Judge’s finding that plaintiff’s counsel had an unfair advantage over defense counsel in utilizing that free public wireless internet access. The Appellate Division wrote that as plaintiff’s counsel “had the foresight to bring his laptop computer to work, 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.”

This decision holds that during jury selection attorneys may utilize free public wireless internet access during that process without first giving notice to the court. Accordingly, it is important for counsel to have a laptop and the ability to utilize same (we at Reardon Anderson do).

— Erik Anderson, Esq.

Reardon Anderson represents the interests of businesses, insurance companies and individuals throughout New Jersey and the metropolitan New York City area. Please visit our website at http://www.reardonanderson.com to learn more about our firm.

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