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updated: 6/19/2013 6:10 PM

Kane reinforces courtroom policy on cellphones

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  • Judith Brawka

      Judith Brawka

 
 

Kane County court officials are requiring people to completely power down their phones before entering courtrooms or risk confiscation.

But don't worry -- it's not like the blanket cellphone ban for Cook County.

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Judith Brawka, chief judge of the 16th Judicial Circuit, said the requirement was enacted last week at the same time the "extended media coverage" rules went into effect.

Under extended media coverage, video and still cameras are allowed in courtrooms with a judge's approval.

Although no requests have been made for extended coverage so far, Brawka said court officials wanted to remind the public of the rules so they didn't get mixed messages if they saw a photographer taking photos in a courtroom and think they could do it, too.

"We didn't want to get into a situation where the public would get confused by extended media coverage," Brawka said, noting cellphones can still be brought into county court buildings. "We wanted to make it clear. We thought this was an appropriate time."

Licensed attorneys, media members and jurors waiting to be called are exceptions to the cellphone rule.

Brawka said most judges have discretion in their courtrooms to warn observers beforehand to turn off phones or to turn them on vibrate.

Some judges give warnings; others have phones held until the court call is over.

The Kane County cellphone restriction does not apply to areas outside the courtroom, such as hallways. Brawka added, however, photography is forbidden by the public in the courthouse.

Lloyd Fletcher, director of Kane County courthouse security, did not return a phone message seeking comment.

In Cook County, cellphones were banned April 15 from everyone except lawyers and media members after courtroom observers, including gang members, were taking photos of judges, jurors and witnesses, and even texting testimony to people in the hallway during trials.

Brawka said there were no instances in Kane County of anyone using a camera in a courtroom to photograph and attempt to intimidate others.

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