The Bar News

Cook criminal courts ban cellphones - lawyers get pass

Circuit Court of Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans today announced beginning January 14, 2013, the public will not be permitted to bring cell phones and other electronic devices into any Circuit Court of Cook County courthouse facility except for the Richard J. Daley Center Courthouse.  The ban will affect only those courthouse facilities in which criminal matters are heard.*

Included in the ban are all electronic devices capable of connecting to the Internet or making audio or video recordings, including laptops and tablet computers.

Chief Judge Evans said, “Judges brought their concerns to me that people attending court proceddings were using their cell phones to photograph witnesses, judges, jurors, and prospective jurors.  They also said persons appeared to be texting testimony to witnesses waiting their turn to testify outside the courtroom, while others were attempting to stream live to media comments by judges from the bench.”

“The court is sending a strong message to gang members and others that any attempts to intimidate witnesses, jurors, and judges in court will not be permitted,” said Chief Judge Evans.  “The ban will help to ensure that justice is properly done by preserving the integrity of testimony and maintaining court decorum.”

Anyone violating the ban could face prosecution for contempt of court.

The new ban on cell phones and electronic devices in all courthouse facilities in which criminal matters are heard is taking place pursuant to General Administrative Order 2012-8 entered by Chief Judge Evans today, December 11, 2012.

Cell phones and electronic devices will continue to be allowed into the Daley Center but the order restricts use of all such devices to public areas, away from courtrooms.  Primarily civil matters are heard in the Daley Center, along with some quasi-criminal, misdemeanor, and traffic offenses.

In addition, the order exempts persons on official business with proper identification who will be allowed to bring such devices into courthouse facilities in which criminal matters are heard.  The use of all such devices by these persons will be restricted to public areas, away from courtrooms. The following persons are exempted from the ban: current or former judges; licensed attorneys; all law enforcement officers; all government employees; persons reporting for jury service; jurors (subject to the authority of the trial judges); building and maintenance workers, equipment repair persons and vendors; and anyone authorized by order of court. 

Members of the news media are also exempted from the ban.  Following the anticipated approval of the circuit court’s application for extended media coverage by the Illinois Supreme Court, the media will also be allowed to use their electronic devices in the courtroom. 

The new policy also provides for judges to be able to enter orders permitting the use of electronic devices in any courtroom in any court facility as they deem appropriate.

*There are 13 courthouse facilities into which the public is prohibited from bringing cell phones and electronic devices as follows:

·         The George N. Leighton Criminal Court Building at 2600 S. California Ave., Chicago

·         The Cook County Juvenile Center, 1100 West Hamilton Ave., Chicago

·         The Domestic Violence Courthouse, 555 West Harrison St., Chicago

·         The Second Municipal District Skokie Courthouse, 5600 Old Orchard Road

·         The Third Municipal District Rolling Meadows Courthouse, 2121 Euclid Road

·         The Fourth Municipal District Maywood Courthouse, 1500 Maybrook Drive

·         The Fifth Municipal District Bridgeview Courthouse, 10220 S. 76th Ave.

·         The Sixth Municipal District Markham Courthouse, 16501 S. Kedzie Parkway

·         5555 W. Grand Ave., Chicago (First Municipal District criminal branches 23 and 50)

·         2452 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago (First Municipal District criminal branches 29 and 42)

·         155 W. 51st St., Chicago (First Municipal District criminal branches 34 and 48)

·         727 E. 111th St., Chicago (First Municipal District criminal branches 35 and 38)

·         3150 W. Flournoy St., Chicago (First Municipal District criminal branches 43 and 44)

Posted on December 11, 2012 by Chris Bonjean
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Member Comments (1)

The way I'm reading this, it seems the ban exemption allows attorneys to use their devices only outside the courtrooms. It has become common for attorneys to use electronic rocketing and even to pull case research in the courtroom, and this could be a big problem. Am I misreading the exemption?

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