Cell phones, laptops, and tablets can no longer be used in D.C. Superior Court if you are not an attorney or law enforcement officer. Understandably, this creates a significant issue for those of us who like to pass their in-court time playing games or texting pals. Take it from me; a law clerk that has spent hours of downtime in court, something to do in between hearings is crucial. But no more "Angry Birds" allowed.
On Wednesday, November 9th Judge Satterfield approved Administrative Order 11-17, which requires that any electronic device be turned off and stored out of sight while in the courtroom. While cameras and video equipment have been prohibited for some time, this new regulation adds other electronics to the list since technology has made even the smallest devices capable of recording and photography.
Certain people like D.C. Bar attorneys, law enforcement, and court officers are exempted from the rule. Those members of the media and people who are representing themselves in court proceedings may apply to the presiding judge for an exemption. But without an exemption, if you are seen using your cell phone in the courtroom, you may be asked to leave or your phone can be confiscated until you do. The rule even specifies that flagrant violation may result in contempt charges, in which case your cell phone or other confiscated device could be retained as evidence against you.
Thankfully, this new rule pales in comparison to those in Virginia courts, which don't even allow cell phones to enter the building if you aren't an attorney. In Arlington, court attendees are relegated to rummaging for quarters in order to store their cell phones in lockers across the street at the jail. At least here, you can still carry it with you.
Just be aware that from here out...if you get bored easily, maybe you should bring a book.