Court Security Committee
Court Security Newsletter - March 2010
Cell phones: To ban or not to ban. That is the question.
Recently, there have been a number of incidents involving the use of cell phones in and around the courthouse. It seems many of us have either experienced or heard stories of jurors doing research on their blackberry while in deliberations, or texting family or friends while in the jury room and commenting on or discussing the case. Lately, additional concerns have arisen as an increase of violence at the courthouse has cell phones at the core of the problem – most notably in King County Juvenile Court, which is located within a particular “turf” of gang “X”. Members of gang “X” have used their cell phones to take pictures of rival gang members who appear at court. These pictures are then sent via cell phone to other gang “X” members, who respond by waiting for the rival to leave court, where he or she is met with gunfire.
Of course, most of us remember the world before cell phone use became so widespread. Cell phones are now seen by many as a necessity, although we survived all those years without them. We’ve all been interrupted in the courtroom by the annoying ring from a cell phone, despite repeated requests by the judge, clerks, and security to turn off all cell phones in the courtroom. Is it necessary for the parties, witnesses, or observers to keep their cell phones on during their time in the courtroom? And if you ban cell phones from your court room, what of the attorneys who inevitably text and receive texts or who use their cell phones for research while seated at counsel table during a hearing? Even set on “vibrate”, a cell phone creates a distraction to jurors trying to listen to testimony or argument.
Washington does not have a statewide policy regarding the presence or use of cell phones in the courtroom. In fact, very few states have such policies. Florida, however, does ban cell phones in the courtroom (court staff is exempt), and requires attorneys to place all laptops and electronic devices in secure lockers before entering the courtroom. North Carolina and South Dakota also have similar bans in place. But, for most of the country, as in Washington, cell phone use in courts is a policy determination made by each individual court.
When electronic devices are used as widely as cell phones are, and when they become primary tools leading to violence, judges need to seriously consider developing policy to restrict their use in and around the courtroom. Our job as judges does not simply entail sound decision-making in the courtroom. We need to ensure that we provide a safe environment for the employees, defendants, witnesses, jurors, visitors and all those who are called to court or who may need the services of the court. We cannot turn a blind eye to the potential threat cell phones pose.
The Court Security Committee will soon conduct an electronic survey of the courts regarding cell phones in the courtroom/courthouse. The survey will be sent to presiding judges and administrators and clerks of the various court jurisdictions. If you receive this survey in your email inbox, please respond to it at your earliest convenience. A sample of this survey is attached.
With gratitude and wishes for a safe 2010,
The BJA Court Security Committee
Be sure to test your court security equipment
before April 15, 2010!
Equipment should be tested once each year,
and Tax Day is an easy day to remember.
So, tag that as your Equipment Test Day as well!
Court Security Incident Reports
Don’t forget to report all court security incidents. The Court Security Incident Report form is at: www.inside.courts.wa.gov/index.cfm?fa=cntlCourtResources.showIncidentReportForm
See the most recent Incident Report Log at: http://www.courts.wa.gov/programs_orgs/pos_bja/courtSecurity/meetings/2010/20100312/INCIDENT%20REPORT%20LOG%20UPDATE%20FOR%203-12-2010%20meeting.pdf
|Courts | Organizations | News | Opinions | Rules | Forms | Directory | Library|
|Back to Top | Privacy and Disclaimer Notices|