By Howard Fischer | Capitol Media Services
The public has no legal right to know the names of jurors who are hearing cases, the Arizona Court of Appeals has ruled.
And that secrecy persists even after the trial is over.
In a ruling that sets legal precedent, the three-judge panel rejected arguments by the publisher of an online legal affairs newsletter that any right of the public — and the media — to that information is more important than protecting the privacy of the people who serve. In fact, Judge Christopher Staring said having that information routinely made public actually could discourage people from agreeing to sit on a jury.
“Once a juror’s name is public, with the current availability of information through the internet and other sources, a vast array of information about them is accessible — sometimes in a matter of seconds,’’ Staring wrote for the three-judge panel.
“The courts should not be bound to create an incentive for others to seek out private information about jurors who have done their civic duty, thereby exposing them to risk of public embarrassment, harassment, or danger,’’ he continued. “Creating a presumption of disclosure for juror names would do just that.’’
But David Morgan, publisher of the Cochise County Record, said that is based on what he believes is an incorrect assumption that jurors will be harassed if their names are known.
“Of course, for 100 years in Arizona trial jurors’ names have been public,’’ he said. “And there’s been no showing that, even with the new-ish, widespread use of raucous and essentially anonymous social media, juror harassment has become a problem.’’