ABA Convenes National Symposium on the American Jury System

Article excerpt

On October Ul and 22, 2010 at the George Washington University Law School, the American Bar .Association's Commission on the American Jury PrOJe1Ct convened i is fourth National Symposium on ihe American Jury System. The agenda featured presentations by jury scholars, judges, and attorneys from around the country, including several members of the Advisory Committee to AJS's Carpenter Jury Center.

Following a welcome by Professor Stephen Sal/burg, Chair of the ABA's Commission on the American Jury Project, members of the first panel examined the impact of social media and new media technology on the jury system. Patricia Reib of Snell & Wilmer shared a collection of Facebookand Tvvitler comments thai jurors had posted about their service, some of which made amusing observations or acknowledged the value of jury service but also included some that could potentially justify a mistrial.

Judge Donald Shelton of the Washienaw County, Michigan, Circuit Court provided examples oí jury instructions that the Ll. S. Judicial Conference and several stales have adopted that seek lo deter jurors from improper use of social media and new media technology. lie also addressed possible sanctions for jurors who ignore such instructions, noting that one judge had required an offending juror to write an essay on the constitutional right to a jury trial.

Professor Shari Diamond of Northwestern University School of Law and the American Bar Foundation described experimental research that she and her colleagues are conducting on the impact on juror behavior of various jury instructions regarding use of electronic technologies. Paula Hannaford-Agor of the Center for Jury Studies at the National Center for Slate Courts discussed the results of a recent survey 011 new media and the courts by the Conference of Court Public Information Officers (CCPIO), which indicated that the judiciary recognizes the importance of new media but is concerned about its impact on ethics, court proceedings, and public understanding of the courts (see the article in this issue "Survey looks at new media and the courts," page 137, for more on the CCPIO project).

The second panel examined the role of judges with respecl to JUJT deliberations, in light of Principles 14, 15, and 16 of ihe ABA's "Principles for Juries and Jury Trials." These principles emphasize the judge's responsibility lo provide plain and understandable jury instructions, to facilitale effective and impartial deliberations, and to offer assistance when the jury reports an apparent impasse. Panelists included V. S- Districtjudge Ricardo L'rbina, Professor Paul Butler of the George Washington University School of Law. Plato Cacheris oí Trout Cacheris, and Gerald Ivey of Finnegan, Hendersoii, Farabow. Garretl & Dunner.

The third panel focused on the progress of jury reform in the states. According to Tom Munsterman. former director of the Center for Jury Studies at the National Center for State Courts, 35 states currently have standing committees on jury reform. …