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Ban on electronics at Cook County courts delayed
Three-month grace period aims at improving public awareness of new rule

Monday, January 14, 2013
Chicago Tribune
by Naomi Nix

Visitors will have a little more time to bring their cellphones into Cook County criminal courthouses. A hard-line policy prohibiting the public from bringing smartphones, computer tablets and other electronics into court was supposed to start Monday. But in the wake of criticism, Chief Judge Timothy Evans has relented, offering a three-month grace period to get courtgoers familiar with the looming ban. "We understand this may be an inconvenience to some, but our primary goal is to protect those inside our courthouses and perhaps save lives in the process," Evans said Friday in a statement. Sheriff's deputies plan to warn people who enter the courts about the new rule, which bans any device that is capable of connecting to the Internet or making an audio or video recording. Information about the ban also has been posted online and in county facilities. "We will be diligently reminding people that this is going to be taking effect," Cook County sheriff's spokesman Frank Bilecki said Sunday. "It's just going to be about public awareness." Last month, Evans said the new policy will help prevent people from using technology to influence court proceedings, such as texting testimony to witnesses awaiting their turn to testify. Anyone who is caught violating the ban could face prosecution for contempt of court, Evans said. But critics said the ban would be difficult to carry out and cause confusion and delays during the security screening process. On Sunday, those attending proceedings at the Leighton Criminal Court Building weren't excited about the new policy, which now is scheduled to take effect April 15. Apryl Russell, 23, said the ban would be inconvenient for her because she uses public transportation to get to the courthouse. "How can you attend to your business if you can't have your phone?" Russell said. "Where are you supposed to put them?" Nicole Carman, 20, said the ban might also be a problem for those who want to use their phone to keep track of time or to check their bank account balances for posting bail. "I think people need their phones," she said. "It's a hassle." The ban applies to all criminal court buildings, but not the Daley Center, where mostly civil cases are heard. Exempt from the ban are attorneys, judges, some government employees, reporters, and those seeking an order of protection or involved with the domestic violence assistance program.


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