California may fine jurors for Internet use

April 25, 2016

justice 2A bill in the California Legislature proposes giving judges the power to fine jurors up to $1,500 for social media and Internet use violations. Currently, judges only have the authority to hold jurors in contempt of court if they violate Internet use rules. [Mercury News]

State court officials support the bill introduced by Assemblyman Rich Gordon (D-Menlo Park). Supporters of the legislation say a potential fine would give teeth to the existing rules against social media and Internet use.

“It’s disruptive of the judicial process, and there ought to be a fairly simple and convenient way for a judge to sanction a juror based on the order that the judge has given,” Gordon said.

Critics question whether the legislation would have any practical effect on jurors who constantly visit sites like Facebook and Twitter. Critics also suggest judges vet the social media activity of jurors before seating them. Additionally, Brian Walsh, a Santa Clara County judge, said the practice of fining jurors may discourage public participation in the democratic process.

An increasing number of mistrials and overturned convictions are occurring across the United States as a result of social media and Internet use violations. In 2011, an Arkansas court threw out a death row inmate’s murder conviction in part as a result of tweets. In January, a California appellate court cited juror Internet research in tossing a fraud conviction against an investment firm CEO.

Locally, a Santa Maria judge in February declared a mistrial in the case of a 90-year-old Solvang woman who was accused of murdering her terminally ill daughter. The judge declared the mistrial in part because jurors had watched media coverage of a separate verdict in the case.



  1. NorthCountyGuy says:

    Since all three branches of government are massively corrupt prostitutes of the highest bidders, is Contempt of Court the same thing as Contempt of Corruption?

    (-1) 3 Total Votes - 1 up - 2 down
  2. ratherbefishing says:

    $1500 fine? Heh, I be more inclined to believe the court’s sincerity if it was a few days in jail. As stated, I believe this is merely another revenue generator: profit by citizen’s undesired behavior.

    (3) 3 Total Votes - 3 up - 0 down
  3. achillesheal says:

    I guess my daughter will never be able to serve on the jury. She can’t put her phone down long enough to avoid those fines.

    (3) 5 Total Votes - 4 up - 1 down
  4. kayaknut says:

    “discourage public participation in the democratic process”, that is already going on for many reasons, but one is that the only people who can spend days/weeks or more on a jury are those who do not receive a private sector paycheck, such as those on lifetime assistance of all sorts, and I would say those with big $$$$’s, but then again those people have no problem getting out of service if they want too.

    (4) 6 Total Votes - 5 up - 1 down
  5. joseywales says:

    Judges should be fined a year’s salary for not instructing let alone forbidding a discussion of the concept of Jury Nullification with the Jurors.

    (7) 7 Total Votes - 7 up - 0 down
    • joseywales says:

      judges actually will put you in jail for contempt of court if a lawyer/defendant even broaches the concept of Jury Nullification, the last bastion of our Constitutional Rights.

      (7) 9 Total Votes - 8 up - 1 down
  6. Really contempt of court is a meaningless charge? The threat of losing your freedom and spending time in jail is now merely a symbolic gesture of our criminal justice system? I object. Contempt of court is a criminal charge and criminal charges equate to crimes against society and restitution, penalty thereof equates to removing the criminal element from society. Losing ones freedom is the paying of their debt to society for violation of some ones freedom.

    Monied restitution is a civil matter to do with property, goods and services, etc. Fees fines and penalties are the equivalent to time served in civil matters.

    Our nation was founded on the principle that debtors prison, putting people in jail simply because they were poor was a violation of a person’s human rights and dignity as a human being.. There was a clear distinction between American jurisprudence and the British monarchy when we recognized the difference between a crime against humanity and a crime against money.

    When we start co-mingling, mixing those two very distinct differences again we put a price on every single person’s head that values money as equivalent to life that has a replacement value. It was wrong in 1776 and it is still wrong in 2016.

    So restore jury nullification and make sure every jury person is aware of this right and sequester cell phones or access to outside influences that could prejudice the jury. And stop wasting our time, energy and resources on writing new laws instead of enforcing and upholding the old ones that are lacking nothing more than enforcement.

    (12) 12 Total Votes - 12 up - 0 down
    • tomsquawk says:

      ” And stop wasting our time, energy and resources on writing new laws instead of enforcing and upholding the old ones that are lacking nothing more than enforcement.”

      yes, and go after the PUC instead

      (6) 6 Total Votes - 6 up - 0 down
    • joseywales says:

      Jury Nullification cant even be discussed in a trial, and it is our constitutional right. The judges instruct juries to vote guilty or not guilty.

      (6) 6 Total Votes - 6 up - 0 down
  7. tomsquawk says:

    How would one know about my Internet use?

    (4) 6 Total Votes - 5 up - 1 down
    • Black Copter Pilot says:

      Are you that naive?

      (9) 9 Total Votes - 9 up - 0 down
    • Vagabond says:

      Second rule of the internet. Anything posted or looked at on a device connected to the internet is seen by the whole world.
      Failure to follow this basic rule leads to almost all of the political screw ups seen today. The internet never has been and never will be totally secure.

      (4) 4 Total Votes - 4 up - 0 down

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