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Judges Don’t “Like” Facebook

(LAS VEGAS CBS KXNT)  Judges in Clark County’s 8th Judicial District issue a standard warning to jurors not to discuss the cases outside of formal deliberations.  Technically, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media are covered by boilerplate language that includes a reference to electronic communications.

“We have very explicit instructions to jurors about what they can and can’t do,” said Chief Judge Jennifer Togliatti. Jurors are also told in no uncertain terms that they’re to report colleagues who violate the instructions.

Jurors overwhelming take their task seriously, Togliotti told KXNT, and they’re generally compliant.

But social networking by jurors has caused headaches in some jurisdictions around the nation. Last year in Arkansas, the state Supreme Court reversed a murder conviction because a juror had  tweeted his feelings about the case during the trial.

Scattered incidents involving juror abuse of social media have led a federal Judicial Conference committee to issue new model jury instructions. They specifically prohibit discussion on social media sites, and name devices such as Blackberrys and iPhones.

Togliatti says the 8th district may not adopt the new guidelines, but social media is on the front burner for Clark County judges, who have taken classes on the subject as part of their required judicial education.

“We have an admonishment, it’s not exactly the same as the proposed model jury instruction,” she said.  “But the gist of it is the same.”

Togliatti and other 8th District judges use general language crafted to address electronic media, but sometimes go “off script,” she said.  The judges have such discretion, so long as they also issue the warning required by Nevada law each time the jury leaves and returns to the courtroom.

“I kind of go over the top in describing all the possible electronic media,” she said.

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