ShareThis Page

Cell phone use barred near county courtrooms

| Friday, Nov. 30, 2007, 12:00 p.m.

Allegheny County criminal court judges have banned the use of cell phones and other electronic devices on the floors of the courthouse where criminal cases are heard.

All 14 criminal court judges signed the order, which was made public Thursday and applies to all courthouse workers and visitors, including attorneys and the media. The ban takes effect Monday and leaves small areas on those floors for the use of electronic devices.

The use of cameras and phones inside courtrooms already is banned, although several states allow cameras inside their courtrooms.

Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning said witness protection was the main factor in the decision.

"There's a constant intimidation of witnesses using recording devices," Manning said. "I used to be of the opinion that if a member of the public walked by and looked in the courtroom, the media should be able to do the same. But the misdeeds of a number of people have put the system in serious jeopardy."

Manning said judges wanted to prevent would-be intimidators from snapping photos of witnesses for distribution in the community. He cited a law that bans electronic devices near the entrances and exits of courtrooms.

Ray Billotte, district court administrator, said he consulted with the sheriff's office in constructing the ban and decided a prohibition that applied to everyone would be the most efficient.

"We tried to strike a balance and at the same time protect the integrity of the proceedings," Billotte said.

Sheriff's deputies said warnings likely would be issued first, then offenders could have their devices confiscated. To get them back, offenders would have to petition a judge, according to the court order.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me