The ban on cellphones in Franklin County’s judicial building is justified. There have been only a few problems to date, but the threat of more situations that could tamper with the judicial process is real. There is a safety element also.
A problem that surfaced was the recording of a court hearing and then transcribed for placement on the Internet. Cellphones have audio and video recording capabilities. The policy also extends to other devices, such as laptop computers and iPads that can record like cellphones.
The presiding circuit judge, Gael Wood, who approved the order along with the presiding county commissioner and sheriff, said the taking of pictures of witnesses, jurors and undercover agents can be used as a means of intimidation. It can be a safety issue. The ringing of cellphones also can be a disruption of proceedings
The ban does not extend to elected county officials, law enforcement officers and attorneys.
The ringing of cellphones can be very annoying whether in a private or public setting. A courtroom is not a proper setting for people using their cellphones for whatever reasons. To photograph jurors, witnesses, law enforcement officers, even attorneys and judges, during the proceedings and to place those photos on the Internet is a violation of courtroom decorum, and could lead to serious consequences for the people being photographed. Courtroom conduct is a matter for a judge to decide.
Some judges will allow bona fide news media to take photos, or film, inside a courtroom under certain conditions. Cameras in the courtroom is an issue that should be left in the hands of the judge. To allow the general public to take photos is going beyond proper courtroom conduct.
We strongly support Franklin County’s ban on cellphones in the judicial center.