Monday, December 1, 2014

No cell phones in the courtroom

At the start of every court session, the bailiff always gives a lecture about the rule of no cellphone use in the courtroom, among other rules, and asks everyone to check their phones and turn them off.  The spiel usually ends with "if I hear a cellphone go off while the judge is on the bench, I'll confiscate the phone and the owner can come back at 4:30 to pick it up."

Some courts allow attorneys to use their phone QUIETLY for texting and reading emails, and others don't.

Despite this speech, there is almost always a phone that goes off, usually with the ring tone VERY LOUD.  Sometimes the ring tone is also funny, especially if it includes a country-western song.  If the bailiff is in a good mood, he will usually tell the owner to take the phone out into the hall and not come back until the phone is off.  However, after the first warning and/or if the bailiff is not in a good mood that day, some poor unfortunate soul has to hand over his phone and can't have it back until later in the afternoon.

One morning, in the middle of a small claims trial, a VERY LOUD ringtone that sounded like an old-fashioned telephone ringing, was heard all throughout the courtroom.  The judge's face turned bright red, he reached under his robe, extracted his phone, and turned it off.

Judge, to bailiff:  "I guess you'll be wanting this now."

Bailiff:  "No exceptions to my rule."  He took the phone and placed it in his desk drawer.

Everyone else in the courtroom immediately re-checked their phones.

Now I'm sure the judge didn't have to wait until 4:30 to retrieve his phone, but I was in the courtroom all morning and he didn't get his phone back while I was there.