With more and more courthouses providing easy Internet access to attorneys, it seems you now have no excuse for poor voir dire preparation. According to the New Jersey Law Journal, an appeals court in New Jersey has ruled that it’s perfectly fine for trial lawyers to bring their laptop computers to court and Google prospective jurors at the counsel table. The ruling overturned a trial judge’s decision to force a plaintiff’s counsel to turn off his laptop computer because it gave him an advantage over his less tech-prepared adversary.
In overturning the trial judge’s ruling, the court pointed out that just because plaintiff’s counsel “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.” The wireless Internet service, the court reasoned, was available to both sides equally.
There are at least two points here to keep in mind. First, take your voir dire seriously. Make use of every opportunity you have to get to know the candidates in your jury pool. This entails asking good questions that uncover their leanings and predispositions, reading facial and body cues, and, especially now, researching each potential juror – using all the information that is available to you in the public domain. You never know what you’ll find. With so many of us broadcasting our political leanings, tastes and habits online, trial lawyers can’t afford to ignore the Internet. Second, stay current in all the technology that’s out there. And be prepared to use it to your advantage. Today it’s Google with Wi-Fi access. Tomorrow, who knows?
But always remember that innovative voir dire techniques must be consistent with ethics and professional responsibility. Moreover, your voir dire must also conform to the practices within the jurisdiction and court in which you are trying the case.