Results of Cell Phone Survey
Thank you to everyone who responded to the survey on cell phone use. The number of responses received was impressive, and so many of you gave very useful input. Responses were received from all over the state and from every level of trial courts including many municipal courts, district courts, superior courts and juvenile courts. Each level of court had many respondents, so it appears everyone’s voice was well represented.
Approximately 58 percent of the responses indicated that their court did have a cell phone policy either banning cell phones from the court room, or banning the use of cell phones in the court room. Approximately 43 percent of the respondents felt that all cell phones should be banned from the court room, while the majority felt that it is not necessary to ban cell phones from the court room. An overwhelming majority of responses (98 percent) did not feel it was necessary to ban cell phones from the court house.
Most responses (68 percent) indicated a preference for each court to establish their own cell phone policy rather than a overall statewide policy, but there also appears to be a preference for a model cell phone policy or guideline that can be adopted or modified by courts as they see fit (62 percent), while a smaller number (19 percent) indicated that no cell phone policy or guidelines were necessary.
Many respondents voiced their concerns regarding the use of cell phones to take photographs surreptitiously in the court room or to record proceedings. Some respondents feared that cell phones could be used in many different ways as a threat to the security of the court, or used by jurors as a research tool or as a tool to divulge information about the trial on social media sites. Many noted the obvious distraction cell phones pose within the court room by both the noise of a call being received and the use of the phone for texting during proceedings while in front of the judge.
Other respondents pointed out that the cell phone is a valuable tool for the attorney as a research device, or to make contact with his office when additional information is required for the proceeding. Many pointed to non-audio uses for cell phones whether related or unrelated to the proceedings.
The Court Security Committee is currently drafting a model policy for use as a guideline for any court that wishes a policy regarding cell phone use in the court room. Again to those of you that responded, your input has been invaluable in assisting your Court Security Committee in its development of a cell phone model policy. As technology progresses at its breakneck pace, there will no doubt be new issues and concerns regarding its application in the court room and new challenges for courts to face. The hope is that the model policy will be malleable enough to address issues not only regarding cell phones, but other electronic devices as they become available. If you wish to give any further input regarding this particular issue, or any issue relating to court security, do not hesitate to contact any one of the Court Security Committee members.
With gratitude and wishes for a safe holiday season,
BJA Court Security Committee