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California court to examine juror's Facebook privacy

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  1. Libel and Privacy
The California Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the state's 3rd District Court of Appeals to revisit the case of a…

The California Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the state's 3rd District Court of Appeals to revisit the case of a Sacramento juror who was ordered to consent to the release of Facebook posts he had made during a criminal trial in 2010.

While serving as the jury foreman in a gang-beating related case, Arturo Ramirez made posts on his Facebook wall. One post said: "Back to jury duty can it get any more BORING than going over piles and piles of metro pcs phone records . . . uuuuughhhh." Once the trial ended, defense attorneys for defendants who were convicted of crimes related to the beating found out about the postings and issued subpoenas to Facebook and Ramirez for records of the post in order to see if Ramirez was biased or if he was influenced by his friends on Facebook.

The social networking site refused to comply with the subpoena and Ramirez challenged it.

On Feb. 4, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael P. Kenny ordered Ramirez to comply to the release of his postings by Feb. 14. Ramirez appealed the order and requested an immediate stay, but the appellate court denied the request without explanation. After immediately filling a petition for review with the state's high court, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye blocked the order from taking effect until her court could review the case.

In a unanimous vote on Wednesday, the California Supreme Court issued an order that extended Cantil-Sakauye's stay and transferred the case back to the Court of Appeals for a full hearing.

Ken Rosenfeld, counsel for Ramirez, said: "This issue is a significant issue and a timely issue for society today because the law has not caught up with technology and it's time they both run the same track."

Although Rosenfeld was "encouraged by the Supreme Court's decision," he "anticipated as a possibility and probably a likelihood" that the case would return to the California Supreme Court "because the Court of Appeals already had an opportunity to hear the case." Rosenfeld said he expects a fast turnaround because this case has direct implications on the sentencing of the defendants in the underlying case.

In a separate development today, Kenny quashed the defense lawyer's subpoena to Facebook seeking Ramirez's posts.