The weekend edition of USA Today leads with a story on the sanctions law schools are facing based upon poor bar passage rates. The ABA will convene a conference to require accredited schools to ensure that at least 75% of graduates pass the bar within two years. Right now 75% of student must pass the bar within five years of graduating. The article point out that, because of various loopholes within ABA standards, schools with passages rates as low as 50% are not being sanctioned. The article includes a searchable index of bar passage rates for all law schools in the nation.

Where does the problem originate? It has long been a reality that there are too many people with law degrees chasing too few jobs. But that reality became even more dire in the mid-2000s when the legal industry suffered from the economic collapse. As law school admissions declined, law schools became less selective, to the tune of admitting students with little hope of passing the bar. The ABA has been slow to respond.

As law school graduates are finding the bar impossible to pass, student loans are coming due. And, where law graduates have previously struggled to find a job, they are now struggling to earn a license to even look for a job.

The cynical side of me doesn’t envision ABA standards to actually tighten given that law schools have a financial incentive to do what it takes to keep tuition dollars coming.

The American Bar Association has released a formal ethics opinion regarding how far attorneys may go in monitoring social media postings of jurors.

Attorneys or their representatives may monitor any activity that is publicly available, but they may not “friend” a juror in an effort to monitor their private social media postings. Nor may attorneys use a third person to friend jurors.

Further, when lawyers find evidence of juror misconduct, there are certain times when the lawyer must report it to the Court and other times when he is not:

The final question the new ABA ethics opinion addresses is what a lawyer should do if he discovers misconduct by a juror during his Internet review. “Jurors have discussed trial issues on ESM [electronic social media], solicited access to witnesses and litigants on ESM, not revealed relevant ESM connections during jury selection, and conducted personal research on the trial issues using the Internet,” the opinion notes.
Under Rule 3.3(b), a lawyer has an obligation to inform the court when the juror’s conduct is fraudulent or criminal. But if the lawyer learns of juror conduct that violates court instructions to the jury but does not rise to the level of criminal or fraudulent conduct, it is not clear if he is obligated to inform the court, the opinion says. For example, “innocuous postings” about jury service, such as the food served at lunch, may violate the jury instructions but fall short of criminal contempt.

If, by virtue of monitoring the juror’s social media postings, the juror is alerted, the lawyer has not contacted the juror. Rather, the social media service provider has initiated the contact.
Continue Reading New ABA Guidelines on Monitoring Jurors Via Social Media