Courtrooms have been, or most are being, equipped with wireless internet access. If you’re like me you have been the paralegal sitting outside the courtroom trying to get some research done while your attorney is sitting in the courtroom and once in a while you get some cryptic note which you are supposed to understand and research on a moment’s notice.
Currently there is nothing in the law that precludes counsel from utilizing the technology available to his/her client’s benefit while in he courtroom.
In 2009, during a medical malpractice case, New Jersey, Morris County Superior Court judge ruled that plaintiff’s counsel could not utilize his wireless laptop to google jurors’ names while in the courtroom because he did not advise the court in advance that he would be conducting research while in the courtroom and therefore having an advantage over defense counsel. The trial judge instructed plaintiff’s counsel to close the laptop. The judge never cited a specific authority or rule of court which addressed the issue stating instead: “The rule is it’s my courtroom and I control it.”
An appeals court reversed the decision by stating that, although trial judges can and should have discretion and control over their courtrooms. That discretion and control does not give the judge the authority to act unreasonably.
“The playing field was, in fact, already ‘level’ because Internet access was open to both counsel, even if only one of them chose to utilize it.” the court said on Aug. 30 in Carino v. Muenzen, M.D., A-5491-08.