Hoping to stem the use of electronic devices in courtrooms, District of Columbia Superior Court Chief Judge Lee Satterfield issued a new administrative order (PDF) on Wednesday outlining an official court policy.
The court already has rules against bringing in sound or video recorders, but advances in technology that make it possible to record on nontraditional devices – phones and computers, for instance – meant that a new policy was necessary, Satterfield wrote.
People coming in to court are allowed to bring in cell phones, computers, tablets and MP3 players. Cameras or tape recorders have to be left with court security.
Using electronic devices in court may not only run afoul of rules barring broadcasting from courtroom, Satterfield wrote in the order, but also “be disruptive to court proceedings.”
According to the order, anyone entering a courtroom is required to turn off any electronic devices and put them away. The order doesn’t apply to members of the D.C. Bar or other officials in court on business. Members of the media can get an exemption from the policy from the judge.
The order formalizes rules that are already being enforced unofficially in Superior Court. Judges, court employees and U.S. Marshals will often tell court observers or members of the media to put away phones, for instance, but according to Satterfield’s new order there was no policy on the books.
Anyone caught using a device without permission can be kicked out of the courtroom or the courthouse, and also face civil or criminal contempt sanctions.