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No More Cell Phones in Court

Waiting for a court hearing can be about as entertaining as watching paint dry. Take it from me, a law clerk who has spent many hours of downtime in the courtroom. But now we can’t play a game of “Angry Birds” anymore to pass the time. As of Wednesday, November 9th, the D.C. Superior Court has adopted a new regulation prohibiting the use of cell phones, laptops, tablets, and other electronic devices in the courtroom.

Administrative Order 11-17 comes from concerns that advancing technologies enable video or audio recording and photography on small, undetectable devices. Cameras and video equipment were already forbidden from the courtroom for some time.

The rule exempts certain people including members of the D.C. Bar, law enforcement, and other officers in court on official business; people who are representing themselves in court and members of the media may apply for exemption with the presiding judge. If you are not exempt from this rule, you will be made to turn off your device and store it someplace where it is not visible before you can enter the courtroom.If you are seen using an electronic device in court in violation of the new rule, court officers may confiscate it from you and either give it back when you leave the building or retain it. The rule mentions that willful disobedience of the regulation could result in civil or criminal contempt proceedings, which in such case the device would be placed into evidence by the court for use against you.

In comparison, I suppose we should consider ourselves lucky that we can carry our cell phones into the courthouse at all. In Virginia, you can’t even bring a phone into the building if you’re not a bar-admitted attorney. For the Arlington courthouse, it’s regular practice to trudge your cell phone and an available quarter across the street to the jail lockers before you go into the courthouse. At least here, we can still carry it with us and go into the hallway to make a call.

So from now on…bring a pad and paper to court for entertainment. For it seems that we must resort to good old fashioned quiet fun to pass the time.