New Jury Instructions Strengthen Social Media Cautions

A federal Judiciary committee has issued a new set of model jury instructions (pdf) that federal judges may use to deter jurors from using social media to research or communicate about cases.

The new instructions, which update and expand on a similar version issued in 2012, were sent to federal judges on Sept. 1.

The new model instructions caution jurors about the many ways social media can undermine a jury’s ability to deliver an impartial verdict. The instructions suggest that reminders about social media restrictions be given throughout the trial, instead of only at its beginning and end, as was recommended in the 2012 version. 

“We believe the new language should more effectively guard potential and serving jurors against improper influence,” said Judge Audrey G. Fleissig, chair of the Committee on Court Administration and Case Management. 

The 2012 model instructions were drafted when fewer social media platforms existed, and when social media was less universally present in most jurors’ lives.

Jurors today are more likely to see popup social media notifications on their phones and computers, making them more vulnerable to unintentionally hearing about a trial or a sensitive legal issue. And social media has been used with greater sophistication to communicate disinformation and influence public opinion. Taken together, these changes make it challenging for courts to ensure that jury members render their verdicts based only on what happens in the courtroom, as is required.

“Persons, entities, and even foreign governments may seek to manipulate your opinions, or your impartiality during deliberations,” the new model instructions note.  “While accessing your email, social media, or the internet, through no fault of your own, you might see popups containing information about this case or the matters, legal principles, individuals or other entities involved in this case. Please be aware of this possibility.”

In a sign of how rapidly social media has changed in eight years, the 2012 model instructions reference smart phone services and social media spaces that have dramatically declined in popularity or even disappeared.

As with the 2012 instructions, jurors will continue to be cautioned not to communicate with anyone about the case until it has concluded, either in conversation or in the form of emails or blog or social media posts.

And jurors will still be emphatically warned against doing any independent research on matters relevant to a case.

“The Sixth Amendment of our Constitution guarantees a trial by an impartial jury,” Fleissig said. “Jurors must decide a case solely on the evidence and law presented to them in the courtroom. In a world where social media can overwhelm us with information and misinformation, it’s important to remind jurors again and again not to be distracted from their civic duty.”

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    For over a decade, Australia, Germany, and the United Kingdom (UK) have developed and implemented national approaches—including strategies, laws, and policies—to support family caregivers, according to experts GAO interviewed. Specifically, experts noted that these efforts could help caregivers maintain workforce attachment, supplement lost income, and save for retirement. As a result, their retirement security could improve. For example, experts said: Care leave allows employees to take time away from work for caregiving responsibilities. Australia's and Germany's policies allow for paid leave (10 days per year of work or instance of caregiving need, respectively), and all three countries allow for unpaid leave though the duration varies. Caregivers can receive income for time spent caregiving. Australia and the UK provide direct payments to those who qualify. Germany provides indirect payments, whereby the care recipient receives an allowance, which they can pass on to their caregiver. Other Countries' Policies to Support Caregivers Experts in all three countries cited some challenges with caregiver support policies. For example, paid leave is not available to all workers in Germany, such as those who work for small firms. In Australia and the UK, experts said eligibility requirements for direct payments (e.g., limits on hours worked or earnings) can make it difficult for someone to work outside their caregiving role. Experts in all three countries said caregivers may be unaware of available supports. For example, identifying caregivers is a challenge in Australia and the UK. As required under the RAISE Family Caregivers Act, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) convened the Family Caregiving Advisory Council (FCAC)—a stakeholder group that is to jointly develop a national family caregiving strategy. As of July 2020, HHS and the FCAC reported limited information on other countries' approaches, and neither entity had concrete plans to collect more. In September 2020, HHS officials provided sources they recently reviewed on selected policies in other countries, and they further noted that HHS staff, FCAC members, and collaborating partners have subject-matter expertise and bring perspectives about other countries' efforts into their discussions. Family caregivers play a critical role in supporting the elderly population, which is growing at a rapid rate worldwide. However, those who provide eldercare may risk their own long-term financial security. Other countries have implemented policies to support caregivers. In recognition of challenges caregivers face in the United States, Congress directed HHS, in consultation with other federal entities, to develop a national family caregiving strategy. GAO was asked to provide information about other countries' efforts that could improve the retirement security of parental and spousal caregivers. This report examines (1) other countries' approaches to support family members who provide eldercare, (2) challenges of these approaches, and (3) the status of HHS' efforts to develop a national family caregiving strategy. GAO conducted case studies of three countries—Australia, Germany, and the United Kingdom—selected based on factors including rates of informal care (i.e., help provided to older family members or friends) and the types of policies they have that could improve caregivers' retirement security. GAO interviewed government officials and experts and reviewed relevant federal laws, research, and documents. GAO's draft report recommended that HHS collect additional information about other countries' experiences. In response, in September 2020, HHS provided an update on its efforts to do so. As a result, GAO removed the recommendation and modified the report accordingly. For more information, contact Tranchau (Kris) T. Nguyen at or nguyentt@gao.gov.
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  • Sanctioning Russia-linked Disinformation Network for its Involvement in Attempts to Influence U.S. Election
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Statement Regarding Federal Civil Rights Investigation Into Shooting of Jacob Blake
    In Crime News
    Eric S. Dreiband, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, and Matthew D. Krueger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin released the following statement related to the Aug. 23, 2020, shooting of Jacob Blake:
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  • Remarks by Attorney General William P. Barr on his Acceptance of the Christifideles Laici Award at the 2020 National Catholic Prayer Breakfast
    In Crime News
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  • Texas Clinic Owner and Clinic Employee Sentenced to Prison for Conspiring to Unlawfully Prescribe Hundreds of Thousands of Opioids
    In Crime News
    A Houston-area pain clinic owner and a clinic employee who posed as a physician were sentenced to 240 months and 96 months in prison, respectively, today for their roles at a “pill mill” where they and their co-conspirator illegally prescribed hundreds of thousands of doses of opioids and other controlled substances.
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  • Leon DeKalb: U.S. Probation’s First Black Officer
    In U.S Courts
    Leon Elmer DeKalb made history nearly 80 years ago when he became the first African American probation officer in the federal court system.
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  • Owner of Montana Construction Company Pleads Guilty to Employment Tax Fraud
    In Crime News
    A Great Falls, Montana, businessman pleaded guilty today to employment tax fraud, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Kurt G. Alme for the District of Montana.
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  • Crude Oil Markets: Effects of the Repeal of the Crude Oil Export Ban
    In U.S GAO News
    GAO's analysis of U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) data and interviews with industry stakeholders shows that the repeal of the U.S. crude oil export ban is associated with increased crude oil exports—from less than half a million barrels per day in 2015 to almost 3 million barrels per day in 2019. The repeal of the ban expanded the market for U.S. crude oil to overseas buyers and, along with other market factors, allowed U.S. crude oil producers to charge higher prices relative to comparable foreign crude oil. Higher prices and an expanded market for U.S. crude oil further incentivized domestic crude oil production, which had been growing since the shale oil boom began around 2009 (see figure). During the period after the repeal, total U.S. imports of crude oil remained largely unchanged. Annual Production and Exports of U.S. Crude Oil, 2009-2019 GAO's analysis found limited effects associated with the repeal of the ban on the production, export, and import of domestic refined petroleum products, such as gasoline. However, profit margins—which are determined in part by the costs a refiner pays for the crude oil and the earnings a refiner receives from the sale of refined products—likely decreased as the prices refiners paid for domestic crude oil increased relative to international prices. Because gasoline prices are largely determined on the global market, U.S. refiners could not pass on to consumers the additional costs associated with the increase in crude oil prices, resulting in decreased profit margins for U.S. refiners. Finally, after the repeal of the crude oil export ban, the U.S. shipping industry experienced a decline as demand fell for U.S. tankers—known as Jones Act tankers—used to move domestic crude oil between U.S. ports. The increase in the relative price of domestic crude oils associated with the repeal of the export ban may have resulted in some U.S. refineries deciding to use more foreign crude oil. Foreign crude oil is typically transported by foreign tankers, reducing the demand for Jones Act tankers compared to what it would have been if the export ban had remained in place, according to six of the seven shipping industry stakeholders GAO interviewed. Between 1975 and the end of 2015, the Energy Policy and Conservation Act directed a ban on nearly all exports of U.S. crude oil. This ban was not considered a significant policy issue when U.S. oil production was declining and import volumes were increasing. However, U.S. crude oil production roughly doubled from 2009 to 2015, due in part to a boom in shale oil production made possible by advancements in drilling technologies. In December 2015, Congress effectively repealed the ban, allowing the free export of U.S. crude oil worldwide. GAO was asked to provide information on the effects of repealing the crude oil export ban. This report describes the effects of the repeal of the crude oil export ban on the domestic crude oil production, petroleum refining, and related sectors of the U.S. shipping industry. GAO analyzed data from EIA and other federal databases to determine the effects of repealing the export ban. GAO also interviewed a nongeneralizeable sample of economists, market analysts, and stakeholders from the oil and gas, refining, and shipping industries. GAO's analysis focused on the repeal of the crude oil export ban and any effects of the repeal on U.S. crude oil and related industries through March 2020. For more information, contact Frank Rusco at (202) 512-3841 or ruscof@gao.gov.
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  • International Trio Indicted in Austin for Illegal Exports to Russia
    In Crime News
    A four–count federal grand jury indictment returned in Austin and unsealed today charges three foreign nationals – a Russian citizen and two Bulgarian citizens – with violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), Export Control Reform Act (ECRA), and a money laundering statute in a scheme to procure sensitive radiation-hardened circuits from the U.S. and ship those components to Russia through Bulgaria without required licenses.
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  • Secretary Pompeo’s Call with Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Burundi Travel Advisory
    In Travel
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  • Request for Statements of Interest: DRL FY20 Iraq Programs
    In Human Health, Resources and Services
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  • Public Health and the Draw Down of the Migrant Protection Protocols Program
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Two Members of Notorious Videogame Piracy Group “Team Xecuter” in Custody
    In Crime News
    Two leaders of one of the world’s most notorious videogame piracy groups, Team Xecuter, have been arrested and are in custody facing charges filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
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    In Travel
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  • Secretary Pompeo Participates in the Geneva Consensus Declaration Signing Ceremony
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Secretary Michael R. Pompeo With Ben Shapiro of The Ben Shapiro Show
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Secretary Pompeo’s Travel to Doha, Qatar
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Former Supervisory Corrections Officer Sentenced for Repeatedly Tasing Restrained Detainee
    In Crime News
    Former supervisory corrections officer Mark Bryant, 42, was sentenced today to 5 years in prison for repeatedly tasing a restrained pretrial detainee inside the Cheatham County Jail in Tennessee. In January 2020, a jury in the Middle District of Tennessee convicted Bryant of two counts of violating Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 242, for using excessive force while acting under color of law. 
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  • Remarks of Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt at the ACI 37th Annual Conference on the FCPA
    In Crime News
    Good morning and thank you for that kind introduction. It is an honor to be here with you today, even if only virtually. Just a year ago, addressing a conference of this size and importance via video would have seemed unthinkable. Today, it is — unfortunately — normal. I look forward to the time — hopefully, soon — when we can gather again in person. In the meantime, I am grateful for this opportunity to speak with you, and I look forward to my discussion with Kim after my remarks conclude.
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