MD May Ban Cell Phones, Computers From Courthouses


A Maryland judiciary committee plans to prohibit people from taking communications devices – including cell phones and computers – into courthouses, reports the Baltimore Sun. The move raises issues of inconvenience for the public and access for journalists, who use handhelds to post information to blogs and social media sites from courthouse hallways, not to mention conduct interviews and call editors. “By shutting this down, you’re really shutting down information,” said Ron Sylvester, a Wichita (KS) Eagle reporter Tweets trials live. At the end of the day, he may have 200 Twitter posts filed – three times the information in the newspaper.

Proponents say the rule could protect witnesses (some court visitors have photographed “snitches” with cell phone cameras) and reduce disruptions such as the mid-trial cell phone ring. “The idea of public trials goes way back [] to English common law, where they used to have trials in the public square,” Sylvester said. “Twitter now has broadened your public square to the rest of the world.” “The courts are going to have to decide at some point ultimately is the system going to be open [] “, said Gene Policinski of the Nashville-based First Amendment Center. “This is really all about balancing the right of the public to know what’s going on in the courts versus the right of the public to have a fair trial. Those ought to be the considerations.”

Comments are closed.