Apocalypse Now: Facebook has the Law by the Balls
My mind was blown this morning. A friend explained to me that attorneys are now using Facebook as a tool in the jury selection process. Well, slap me and call me Sally. Where will it end? I know employers often use Facebook for gaining “background information” on prospective employees, but let’s get real. The only employers that are able to gain information from Facebook likely run a restaurant bar, and are hiring 18-19 year-old girls to serve drinks in short skirts. My point: said individuals want their scandalous pictures to be seen by anyone willing to spend their time acting like a creep. Privacy settings work to protect everyone else that has something to lose. Or, so I thought.
It turns out that potential jurors have fallen victim to the Zeal of the Esquire (sound the daunting Godzilla music). One particularly alarming, shiesty, ninja-method for digging up dirt on members of our community is providing free access to the court’s wi-fi network in “exchange for temporarily ‘friending’” an attorney’s office. Jesus! Have humans become that damn desperate? Definitely, maybe yes.
I’ve seen horrors…horrors that you’ve seen. We have all witnessed Facebook’s rapid take-over of the social network, increasing the effects of globalization while simultaneously sponging up advertising time. It is undeniable that the media has turned into an even more propagandizing machine. I am a victim. You are a victim. Crawling, slithering, along the edge of a straight razor…and surviving.
Facebook has broken down our individual identity. Now it is dismantling one of the most fundamental tenants of the practice of law. Utilizing information from Facebook profiles during voir dire implicates significant risks. As Jason Shultz, co-director of the Samuelson Law, Technology, & Public Policy Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley, law school, “I don’t think we should abandon [the] system in favor of Internet scooping. There are a number of people who post who they want to be, as opposed to who they are.” Despite this warning, prosecution and defense lawyers terrorize the site for personal information regarding the jury pool. The ultimate goal seeks to signal the side that any particular juror might be more inclined to side with at trial.
The Wall Street Journal’s article reflects an extremely disconcerting truth – there are myriad ways that sandbagging attorneys are working the process to gain a possible (ahem, at best) advantage at trial. One attorney even attests to equipping his staff with gadgets, such as iPads, to scan the Web during jury selection. Clever thinking, Counselor.
Apparently, appellate courts are willing to uphold the rights of lawyers to research jurors online. For example, a New Jersey Court determined last year that, “the fact that the plaintiff’s lawyer 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.’ ”
Beyond that, divorce lawyers have extracted “pure gold” from social media posts by careless spouses enabling higher alimony payments. Paul Kiesel, a plaintiff’s lawyer in Beverly Hills, Calif., exclaimed that social media, “[is] a waterfall of information, compared to the pinhole view that you used to get.” If any product of Facebook – or social media in general – is evident, however, it is the fact that users hide behind the barriers of impersonal mass communication. I question whether we can gain sufficiently reliable information about any person without meeting face-to-face.
If this story is a confession then so is mine. After deleting Facebook a few years ago, I was thrust back into the grips of the soul-thirsting beast. Even at this moment, I realize that if anyone actually reads this rant, I owe its reception to the wretched scheme I curse. What a vicious circle it is. Perfect, at that.