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Will All Electronic Devices Be Banned From Our Courtrooms?

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. | Last updated on

Judges have long since banned cameras, video and sound recorders from the courtroom. But what about other electronic devices in courtrooms? Will there come a time when they are no longer welcome?

We may be moving steadily, though slowly, in that direction. In fact, the D.C. Superior Court has just issued an order placing substantial restrictions on electronic devices, including phones, computers and MP3 players.

The court's order got this blogger thinking. How are courts across the country dealing with technological advancement?

There's not a lot of information out there on electronic devices in courtrooms. There is, however, a little tidbit from the Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Administration.

An informal survey suggests that half of all federal district courts permit electronic devices in court buildings. But about 1/3 of those prohibit their presence in the courtroom unless given permission. In the other 2/3, devices must be turned off.

That means about half of all district courts ban electronic devices in courtrooms and the courthouse. Unless one is a judge, court officer or attorney, devices must be left with security.

The few systems with statewide policies seem to be somewhere in-between. The public can bring non-recording devices into the courthouse, but they must be turned off and stowed away once in the courtroom. Disobeyers will be held in civil or criminal contempt.

But how long will the middle ground last? Jurors and spectators are off tweeting and causing mistrials. If the public can't resist the lure of social media, electronic devices in courtrooms will likely be a thing of the past.

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