Thursday, December 1, 2011

Would Granting Reasonable Accommodations to Jurors Include Use of Computer?

Rules governing jury service include that the court must provide reasonable accommodations to jurors, including providing sign language interpreters for deaf jurors, large seats for jurors of large stature, and facilities for breast-feeding mothers or persons requiring frequent medication.  In discussing juror misconduct with other judges, one raised a good point.  What if a juror says they would prefer to take notes on a laptop or tablet computer (such as an Ipad) or smartphone  instead of handwriting on a paper tablet?  What would be the court's response and on what basis?  I doubt a juror would find it acceptable for the judge to simply say "No, and because I said "no."  If judges simply start to adopt rules to prohibit such use of technology, how can we allow attorneys, clerks, jury consultants, and others in the courtroom to use computers but not the jurors?  Certainly issues arise such as how do we make certain the juror is not making an audio recording of the proceedings or doing Internet research or "tweeting" while on a break or lunch.  Also, judges probably haven't even thought of what types of technology will be available in 6 months or a year.  The smartphone could be the size of a wrist watch or roll up like a piece of paper ( seen in futuristic movies).  The bottom line is that the courts need to evaluate these issues far beyond just setting more rules against use of technology by jurors.

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