Jury duty, it has been said, is for people who aren’t smart enough to get out of jury duty. But is that the only problem with the jury composition of today? One of the highest-ranking judges in England, Lord Judge of Draycote, the Lord Chief Justice, doesn’t seem to think so. In a recent statement, the Lord Chief Justice pointed a finger at young jury members and their technology/Internet dependence:

Most [young jury members] are technologically proficient. Many get much information from the Internet. They consult and refer to it. They are not listening . . . . One potential problem is whether, learning as they do in this way, they will be accustomed, as we were, to listening for prolonged periods. Even if they have the ability to endure hours and days of sitting listening, how long would it be before some ask for the information on which they have to make their decision to be provided in forms which adapt to modern technology?

There will be many critics of his statements. After all, the jury system has survived (it has survived, right?) many waves of technological advances that have hampered our collective attention span. Television (e.g., Boston Legal, Law & Order) and movies (e.g., The Verdict, A Few Good Men, every movie adapted from a John Grisham novel) have surely swayed the expectations that many jury members have when they walk into the courtroom. But even after they learn the ins and outs of the tortoise-paced modern trial, we still believe that they will be able to listen to the arguments and come to the best decision possible. Is the Internet so different that it will affect jury members’ attention span in a way that other technological advances have not? Only time (and empirical legal scholarship) will tell.

But if the Lord Chief Justice is correct, and our Internet culture has severely made an impact on the minds of the young for the worse, it seems that he is ignoring a potentially more devastating issue. After all, isn’t there a striking similarity between how jury members get their information at trial and how young (Internet-crazed, technology-addicted) law students get their information in law school? Some educators have tried to address the latter problem—the University of Chicago Law School, for instance, has blocked Internet access in its classrooms. However, the University of Chicago’s policy is by far the minority position in U.S. law schools.

In sum, it is definitely not clear that the Lord Chief Justice’s statements are accurate. But if they are—and the attention span of the young people of today has been severely affected by their widespread use of the Internet—he should be just as worried about the lawyer (who was once a young law student constantly refreshing the Drudge Report in Evidence class) making objections at trial as the wandering mind of the young jury member.

–Nick Lynton

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