Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Quebec Justice Minister Worried about Lawyers Using Jurors' Facebook Pages

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Quebec Justice Minister Worried about Lawyers Using Jurors' Facebook Pages

Article excerpt

Facebook being used to ID jurors worrisome: Vallee

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MONTREAL - A report that some Quebec defence lawyers are using Facebook to identify jurors and tailor their cases accordingly has prompted the province's justice minister to create a working group to look into a situation she calls "worrisome."

Le Journal de Montreal reported this week that some lawyers were routinely using a Facebook feature that recommends potential contacts to identify jurors who had a smartphone with them.

Lawyers explained the Facebook algorithm would eventually reveal the identity of those jurors after a few days in the same courtroom.

Attorneys who were not named told the newspaper they could then glean publicly available information from a juror's profile that could help in crafting a defence strategy based on criteria such as age, family status and opinions.

The report doesn't make clear how widespread the practice is, but it raised concerns for Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee and some members of the legal community.

Vallee has convened a working group to delve into the matter and adapt procedures to cope with new technologies.

"We'll try to come up with a solution to better protect jurors because a situation like this is quite worrisome," she told reporters in Quebec City on Wednesday.

A spokesman for the Crown said they were also alarmed and were looking at any related legal issues.

Under Canadian law, jurors cannot be identified and are often assigned a number. Lawyers know little about them aside from their profession and their answers to a few cursory questions.

But Daniele Roy, president of an association of defence attorneys, said knowing more about jurors could be useful if the rules are properly defined.

She said it's not surprising that lawyers -- Crown and defence attorneys alike -- would want to know more about the people hearing cases, noting it is common in the United States.

"If we know more about jurors, we can know how to present our arguments," Roy said. …

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