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Five Things to Know About Ninth Circuit Rules for Phones

By Robyn Hagan Cain on August 10, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Here at FindLaw, we understand the pressures of being a legal professional - most of us are recovering lawyers - so we want to help by tossing you that preferred life preserver of the legal profession, the short list.

Today's topic: Ninth Circuit Rules for Phones and Other Electronic Devices.

The Ninth Circuit is often recognized as progressive court, so it stands to reason that - unlike airlines - Ninth Circuit rules on electronic devices would also be progressive. While some courthouses ban phones altogether, the Ninth Circuit understands that we live in a digital age. Here's what you should know about the Ninth Circuit's electronic device policy.

  1. Can I bring my phone in the courthouse? Yes. The electronic device policy provides that, generally, anyone should be allowed to bring electronic devices, such as smart phones, laptop computers, or similarly functioning devices, into the courthouse.
  2. Can I take a call during while court is in session? No. First, that could result in contempt charges. Second, it's rude. Third, the Ninth Circuit rules state that you can use electronic devices to make calls or transmit date in the courthouse, but not in the courtroom. For reasons of privacy, safety, and security, you cannot use your electronic devices to take photographs, or record or transmit audio or video in the courthouse. There's an exception for court staff, authorized vendors, and education or ceremonial events, so don't worry; your family can take pictures if you're being sworn in or honored.
  3. What about jurors? As long as jurors are not live-blogging deliberations, they can also bring their electronic devices in the courthouse.
  4. Can jurors text during trial? No. Again, there are limitations on electronic device usage during trials. Jurors can only use electronic devices in accordance with the judge's instructions during voir dire, trial, and deliberation. Jurors are prohibited from using electronic devices to read about their trial, conduct research about the case, or discuss the case. Finally, jurors cannot use their personal electronic devices to take notes or make recordings during voir dire, trial, or deliberation.
  5. Are there different rules for journalists? Yes. Courts should anticipate that reporters, bloggers and other observers seated in the courtroom may use electronic devices to prepare and post online news accounts and commentary during the proceedings.

Federal courts within the Ninth Circuit should make every effort to inform the public about where and how electronic devices may be used in the courthouse. Notices should be posted in the courthouse and on the court's web site. If you're uncertain about how a particular courthouse applies the Ninth Circuit's rules for phones and laptops, check the court's website before you go, or look for electronic device policy signs when you arrive.

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