California is putting its money where my mouth is and is enacting AB 141, authored by Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes (D-Sylmar) and signed by Governor Brown yesterday. It codifies the already-existing rule that juror texting or tweeting – or any other electronic communication in relation to an existing case – is a violation of duty. But effective January 1, 2012, a juror caught doing so is chargeable with a misdemeanor.
Technically, judges could most likely do so right now under their general ‘contempt’ power, but, as we’ve seen with electronic discovery rules, this specifically targets and clarifies the rules as they apply to electronic misconduct.
I’m firmly in the camp that believes there must be harsh (or more harsh) penalties for juror mischief if we have any hope of maintaining the integrity of the legal process (some will probably say we’re too late). This is a good start.
And for anyone who believes a judge wouldn’t dare impose such a penalty? Any lawyer who’s spent time in a few California courtrooms will tell you plainly; you’re wrong!