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Saturday, March 24, 2012

California Court of Appeals Hears Facebook Privacy Case

Lonnie Wong
FOX40 News
6:30 p.m. PDT, March 23, 2012

Attorneys made arguments before a three judge panel today in Sacramento on whether postings on Facebook are constitutionally protected.

The case involves a jury foreman on a case in which five men were convicted in a gang beating. That juror posted observations during jury deliberations, which were seen by another juror on the trial that he befriended on Facebook.

During a court hearing in which the juror was given immunity, he admitted to the posts, one of which he said the proceedings were "boring."

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Facebook refused to comply with a subpoena seeking his posts, and another court ruled that a subpoena of the information from the juror's attorney was “overbroad." The trial judge then ordered the juror himself to turn over the posts.

The juror's attorney, FOX40 legal analyst Ken Rosenfeld, argued the Stored Communications Act protects online communications on social media sites like Facebook. He also asserted that the request by the judge was a violation of First and Fourth Amendment rights to free speech and privacy.

When Rosenfeld was asked by one justice if the federal law even applied because Facebook was not forced to turn over the material, he contended that the law applies both to Facebook and the individual using it.

"We have to have a fair system in which jurors can feel comfortable knowing that their private lives are not going to be intruded upon in reaching verdicts and making decisions," Rosenfeld told FOX40.

But attorneys for the five men who were convicted say their clients also have a constitutional right to a fair trial. They say the juror disregarded daily instructions not to communicate anything about the case and there was other evidence that he acted to prejudice the decision. Justice Louis Mauro asked if there shouldn't be some balance in the rights of the juror and those of the defendants.

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