Cell phones, laptops and tablets won’t be allowed in Cook County courthouses starting Monday per an order by the county’s chief judge who wants to make courthouses safer and protect people testifying in court.
Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans’s order takes effect Monday, but there will be a three-month grace period.
The Circuit Court of Cook County and the Cook County Sheriff’s Department will remind people entering a courthouse that communication devices are prohibited, Evans said in a statement released Friday. “It will be strongly suggested devices remain in the car,” he said.
The Circuit Court is working to find a place for people using public transportation to put their devices, he said. If a person can’t leave electronics in a car during the grace period, they can keep it as long as it is off. If anyone is caught using it, they could face charges.
Under the ban, prospective jurors, lawyers, people on official business, former judges, licensed attorneys, police officers, government employees, vendors and the media will be exempt.
Anyone caught with electronics that make audio or video recordings, including cell phones, laptops and tablets, could be charged with contempt of court once the grace period ends on April 15.
“We want to do everything we can to ensure that justice is properly done by preserving the integrity of testimony and maintaining court decorum,” Evans said. “We understand this may be an inconvenience to some, but our primary goal is to protect those inside our courthouses and perhaps save lives in the process.”
Judges informed Evans of concerns that people attending court proceedings were using cell phones to photograph witnesses, judges, jurors and prospective jurors, Evans said. People also appeared to be texting testimony to witnesses waiting their turn to testify outside the courtroom while others were attempting to stream live to media comments by judges from the bench, he said.
The ban is intended to send a strong message to gang members and others who attempt to intimidate witnesses, jurors and judges that such acts will not be allowed, he said. It does not affect efforts in the state to bring cameras and televise trials.
Thirteen courthouses are effected by the ban. The Richard J. Daley Center Courthouse is exempt since the ban will affect only courthouses where criminal matters are heard, the release stated. Courthouses affected are:
The George N. Leighton Criminal Court Building at 2600 S. California Ave., Chicago
The Cook County Juvenile Center, 1100 West Hamilton Ave., Chicago
The Domestic Violence Courthouse, 555 West Harrison St., Chicago
The Second Municipal District Skokie Courthouse, 5600 Old Orchard Road, Skokie
The Third Municipal District Rolling Meadows Courthouse, 2121 Euclid Road, Rolling Meadows
The Fourth Municipal District Maywood Courthouse, 1500 Maybrook Drive, Maywood
The Fifth Municipal District Bridgeview Courthouse, 10220 S. 76th Ave., Bridgeview
The Sixth Municipal District Markham Courthouse, 16501 S. Kedzie Parkway, Markham
5555 W. Grand Ave., Chicago (First Municipal District criminal branches 23 and 50)
2452 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago (First Municipal District criminal branches 29 and 42)
155 W. 51st St., Chicago (First Municipal District criminal branches 34 and 48)
727 E. 111th St., Chicago (First Municipal District criminal branches 35 and 38)
3150 W. Flournoy St., Chicago (First Municipal District criminal branches 43 and 44)