Chief Judge Evans Revises Mobile Computing Ban in Cook County Courts

General Administrative Order No. 2013-01 Revises and Supersedes General Administrative Order No. 2012-8

On December 12, 2012 General Administrative Order No. 2012-8 was released, declaring a ban against mobile computing and telecommunication devices for all Cook County courthouses except the Daley Center to begin on Monday, January 14, 2013.    A list of exempt persons was identified, including licensed attorneys, who would be permitted to bring the devices into the court. However, unless ordered by the trial judge presiding, these devices would only be allowable in public areas of the courtrooms, outside of the courtrooms.  This was troubling to some lawyers who use mobile computing devices in the courtroom to check calendars, read advance sheets, access legal research, and communicate with their offices.  Some domestic violence groups were also worried about a “chilling effect” on access to justice due to the ban.

Today Chief Judge Evans released a revised order,  General Administrative Order No. 2013-01 .  Revisions to the order include changing the language regarding exempted persons from the prohibition

from:

“The persons described above in section 2(a-h) may use the telephone, SMS (short message service) texting, instant messaging, email, and word processing functions of a cell phone or other electronic device only in the public areas of the courthouse outside the courtrooms, unless otherwise ordered by the trial judge presiding.”

to:

“The persons described above in section 2(a-o) may use the telephone, SMS (short message service) texting, instant messaging, email, and word processing functions of a cell phone or other electronic device only in the public areas of the courthouse outside the courtrooms, and said electronic devices must remain off when in courtrooms, unless otherwise expressly permitted by the judge presiding.

This amended statement is followed by new language:

“Nothing in this order should be construed to affect a judge’s authority to permit attorneys and pro se litigants with cases before the judge to use such devices in the courtroom for purposes such as making evidentiary and other presentations to the court, preparing orders and other court documents, making entries in a case management applications, or any other purpose the judge deems appropriate.”

Additional changes expand the list of those exempted from the prohibition to include domestic violence advocates or counselors, persons present to obtain orders of protection, participants in a domestic violence assistance program, and disabled persons whose disabilities necessitate the use of an electronic device to communicate.

The Office of the Chief Judge press release issued by the court notes that there will be a three month grace period after the start of the ban ending on Monday, April 15, 2013. In part it says:

“in an effort to aid those taking public transportation to various courthouses, the Circuit Court of Cook County is assigning a person to work with Cook County’s real estate and facilities department heads to quickly find a solution for storage of said devices – a claim check system or providing locker facilities as examples. During the grace period, if a person cannot leave the device in a car or with a companion outside the courtroom, the device can remain with the person inside the courtroom but in the off position. If a person is identified as powering on the device, the person may be held in contempt of court and possibly face penalties ordered by the judge.”

About Catherine Reach

Catherine Sanders Reach is the Director of Law Practice Management & Technology at the Chicago Bar Association.