Last Monday, Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. released a revised budget for the State of California. Initially, Governor Brown had estimated a $9.2 billion budget shortfall for 2012-13, but this sum increased to $15.7 billion “as a result of a reduced revenue outlook, higher costs to fund schools, and decisions by the federal government and courts to block budget cuts.” To bridge the gap, the Governor is proposing to “increase the personal income tax on the state’s wealthiest taxpayers for seven years and increase the sales tax by one-quarter percent for four years.”
Last Friday, Governor Brown signed California Assembly Bill 141 into law. AB 141 formalizes long-standing informal rules banning the use of social media and electronic devices (including smart phones) by jurors to discuss or research cases. As well, the bill forbids jurors from using electronic or wireless devices to contact court officials. While existing laws require a court to remind and admonish jurors to refrain from conversing about a case during trial, the bill:
[W]ould require the court, when admonishing the jury against conversation, research, or dissemination of information pursuant to these provisions, to clearly explain, as part of the admonishment, that the prohibition applies to all forms of electronic and wireless communication. The bill would require the officer in charge of a jury to prevent any form of electronic or wireless communication.
Beginning in January, if a juror disobeys such an admonishment, he or she will face contempt of court charges.