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D.C. Circuit Doesn't Trust Average Joes with Phones

By Robyn Hagan Cain on September 14, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Have you ever looked at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals electronic devices policy?

If you're a member of the bar or the media, everything's A-O-K. If you're Joe Schmo trying to get a glimpse of the appellate court at work, you're S-O-L.

The general policy states, “Visitors may keep an electronic device (e.g., cell phone, laptop, iPhone, iPod, MP3 player, etc.) in the courthouse and annex if the device does not have a camera (still or video) or is not capable of recording audio.”

In other words, our mother is the only person left in America who can bring her phone into the courthouse.

As for everyone else, there are a few categories of camera-phone wielding visitors who can stay connected while in the courthouse. They are:

  • Attorneys who display a bar identification card or other proof of membership of the bar of the Court of Appeals, District Court, or D.C. Bar.
  • Jurors who display a juror summons or juror pass issued by the Jury Office.
  • Members of the media who are credentialed by either the court or who are credentialed by another federal or D.C. government entity, including the Supreme Court, Congress, a federal agency, or the D.C. government.
  • Individuals who display their credentials as Parole Commission hearing examiners.

If you don't fall within one of these four trusted categories of visitors, you either have to get a written note from the judge or court unit executive, or check your device at the entrance.

(Sidebar: At least the D.C. Circuit provides a babysitter for your phone. At the federal courthouse in our hometown, phones were strictly prohibited and there wasn't a check service. The shrubs outside the entrance were always littered with smartphones.)

Even if you are lucky enough to hold onto your phone, you can't play Angry Birds in the courtroom. The electronics policy states that all electronic devices must be turned off before entering a courtroom.

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