COURT NEWS AND NOTES

FCAS Presents: Bench & Bar Dialogue

Members of the KCMBA Federal Court Advocates Section are invited to join the WDMO judges for lunch on Oct. 6, 2010, from 12:00 noon to 1:30 p.m. The discussion topic will be hearings on discovery and dispositive motions.

  • Need for hearings/oral argument
  • Types of discovery and dispositive motions that should be heard
  • Collateral benefits of hearing where all counsel and court meet in person
  • Effective argument at hearings on motions

The event will be held at the Whittaker Courthouse, and free Missouri and Kansas CLE credits are available. To learn more about joining FCAS and registering for this event, contact Bob Thomas at (816) 474-4322. Both KCMBA and non-KCMBA members are welcome. The annual membership fee is $15 and $25, respectively.



Jurors’ Use of Social Media
Social Media

In this day and age of ever changing technology, it is not surprising that the use of social media tools―i.e., Facebook, MySpace, blogs and Twitter―has caused concern for the courts. Most recently, a Michigan woman, while serving as a trial juror in a criminal case, posted on her Facebook account that she was looking forward to finding the defendant guilty. This personal comment caused her to be held in contempt of court. The judge in this case ordered her to pay a fine of $250 and to write a six-page essay on the Sixth Amendment.

Such use of social media is happening nationwide, resulting in mistrials and reversals, as well as the aforementioned contempt charges. In January 2010, the Judicial Conference of the United States issued “Twitter instructions” to all federal judges, suggesting they be read to jurors when the trial begins and again before deliberations begin. Some of the language in those instructions include “do not talk face-to-face or use any electronic device or media, such as the telephone, a cell or smart phone, Blackberry, PDA, computer, the Internet, any Internet service, any text or instant messaging service, any Internet chat room, blog or website such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube or Twitter, or any other way to communicate to anyone any information about this case.”

This matter is gaining attention with the federal judges in the Western District of Missouri. U.S. District Judge Greg Kays states, “The A.O. (Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts) has made trial judges very aware of the potential problems related to the use of social media in our court system.” Judge Kays intends to incorporate instructions regarding the use of social media into his own jury instructions.

U. S. Magistrate William A. Knox, chairman of the Sub-Committee on Model Criminal and Civil Jury Instructions for use in the 8th Circuit, says the committee is currently revising the instructions to take the social media issue into account. The working draft of the revised instructions is available from any member of the sub-committee. To contact a sub-committee member, or to review the instructions, you may visit the 8th Circuit Model Jury Instructions website at http://www.juryinstructions.ca8.uscourts.gov.



Jury Administrator Speaks at Missouri Clerk’s College

Kelsee Pierce, jury administrator, represented the Western District of Missouri at the Missouri Clerk’s College bi-annual conference on Sept. 9, 2010, in Osage Beach, Mo. The bi-annual conference is held each spring and fall and is sponsored by the Office of the State Courts Administrator. Pierce was invited to make a presentation in response to her being instrumental in creating the Missouri Jury Organization (MOJO).

Although many topics presented during the conference pertained to all facets of the court system, the majority relate to the Missouri State Courts and are directed to court clerks statewide. More often than not, state court personnel are unfamiliar with the federal process. Therefore, Pierce was called upon to present information relating to the federal court system. Her presentation covered the following areas:

  • Differences between state and federal courts.
  • Jury management practices in the federal court.
  • Overview of the Missouri jury organization.
  • Best requests to be excused from jury service.

Pierce’s innovativeness in creating MOJO has earned her recognition among colleagues and has put the WDMO in the forefront of the jury arena.

 

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