Technology out-racing Law’s ability to keep up


If the law and technology were in a foot race, technology would cross the finish line before the law tied its track shoes. This has been a problem since the birth of the Internet, in almost every legal aspect one could think of, from copyright laws to gambling, from access to pornography to privacy issues.

Today, technology and its social media sites have invaded the courtroom, where jurors have been caught tweeting and defendants have been known to blog – from the defense table.

This has forced judges to revise jury instructions, in some places formally. The admonitions they give before every recess might take several minutes. Before trial, judges have always told jurors to not read the newspaper, watch the news on TV or listen to radio reports regarding the case. They will continue to tell jurors not to talk about the case to the media, their families or each other until it concludes.

The new wrinkle will come when judges order jurors to refrain from using laptops, cell phones, Blackberries or I-Phones to access the Internet. They will be told not to log on to Twitter, Facebook, My Space, news outlet Web sites, LinkedIn, YouTube, MyTube or TheirTube, or any other social network site that might be created between now and lunchtime.

After the trial but before deliberations, jurors will be told all the above, but they will be given permission to finally begin discussing the case. The question is, Will they limit that discussion only to what was said inside the courtroom during the course of the trial?

There is great debate in many a marbled corridor these days whether the Internet has compromised the judicial system. We believe the claim is bogus. Jurors have historically taken their task quite seriously, and there’s nothing to suggest technology and all its marvels have put a dent in that longstanding sense of duty.

Having said that, the law is about 20 years behind technology and the gap widens every day.