Whoa! Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans had banned electronic note taking in the courts? Luddites like me who still use diary books (the diary's batteries never fail, although it is just as prone to data entry errors as its electronic counterparts) would not be impacted by such an order, but I could see where such an order, if true, would provoke full-blown angst among my more gadget-inclined colleagues.
I was in the middle of working my law job at the time, but when I could return to the story I found an email from Judge Evans' press aide Rose Mary Marasso, providing both a press release about Judge Evans' order and the order itself.
The above link will take you to the text of yesterday's order, but, in my reading, there are three operative points:
- Note-taking is permitted in court proceedings conducted in Cook County courtrooms;
- Taking notes in court proceedings is subject to the court’s General Administrative Order No 2013-05 - Cell Phones and Other Electronic Devices; and
- Individual judges and deputy sheriffs have the right and duty to keep order in their own courtrooms.
And, in any event, the current ban does (and, for that matter, the ban imposed by its predecessors did) not apply to reporters.
On the other hand, at least as I'm reading the rules, in-trial tweeting by reporters was neither permitted nor prohibited by the Chief Judge except in cases where a trial was permitted to be broadcast under the procedures adopted by the Illinois Supreme Court -- in which case "members of the news media may also use their electronic devices in the courtroom to communicate with news media colleagues, provided court is not in session."
But -- bottom line, as I see it -- courtroom cell phone use by lawyers and reporters alike was pretty much subject to the discretion of the individual courtroom judge prior to yesterday afternoon and remains so following the adoption of this order. Most judges in my experience take a fairly indulgent view of technology; in many courtrooms the problem is not so much getting the judge's permission (or quiet acquiescence) as it is getting a viable cellular signal.
There may be a back-story behind yesterday's order: Some judge somewhere may have threatened to take a reporter's devices. There could be a couple of judges who suspect that they are the subject of a reporter's attention, not the case or cases on the day's docket. These few, if there really are any, may see yesterday's order as a limitation. No one else should.
Or have I missed something?