URBAN, Illinois (WCIA) – On Tuesday, people who stop at Champaign County Courthouse will be able to bring their cell phone, tablet, or other electronic device inside, as long as they follow a strict set of rules.
A recent order from President Randy Rosenbaum removes some restrictions on the current policy, which doesn’t allow ordinary people to bring devices indoors. Lawyers, media and other court staff can do this.
Highlights of this new order include:
- The devices can be used in lobbies and corridors as long as they do not disturb or threaten others.
- The devices, with limited exceptions, cannot be used to register persons involved in cases, such as a witness in a trial.
- Ordinary people cannot use a device in a courtroom, with limited exceptions. For example, people can check their calendar to see availability for a future court date.
- No one is allowed to take photos or videos during a court hearing, other than members of the media who have prior permission.
- People cannot use a device to talk to a potential juror or witness.
- Recording equipment, such as a camera, cannot be taken to court unless it is an approved event, such as a wedding, a graduation from a troubled court, or the media dealing with a case.
The order said anyone breaking the rules could be removed from court or tried for contempt of court, which could mean jail time. Officials could also take the person’s device until he leaves.
Judge Rosenbaum’s change offers greater freedom and convenience to people who need their device in court for a legitimate purpose, such as a juror reading an e-book to pass the time or a person representing himself in court to check documents . However, sheriff’s deputies who oversee the courthouse will now have to be on the lookout for people using their phones unnecessarily.
The device policy of the Urbana court has varied over the years. Judge Tom Difanis, now retired, had tightened the rules on fears that witnesses would be harassed and recorded.
On January 6, the Illinois Supreme Court adopted a policy that every county court must have rules on devices. Among other things, the high court said that courts that prohibit ordinary people from bringing the devices inside must provide free storage.
“Courts must adapt to the times and this is an important way to address the needs of the courts
users, “Supreme Court President Anne M. Burke said in a statement.” It is no longer realistic to ask people to leave the cell
phones and other electronic devices at home when visiting the courts.