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Guidance for mobile devices at federal courthouses updated

September 12, 2017

The Judicial Conference of the United States released updated guidance for use of portable communication devices in courthouses Tuesday. The guidance was last updated in 2010, the year the iPad was launched.

The guidance on portable communication devices defines as cellphones, smart phones, tablets, smart watches and fitness trackers, laptops, headphones and other devices that can wirelessly connect to other devices. The five-page document encourages federal courts to work with the district U.S. marshal and the judicial security inspector responsible for courthouse security in developing a policy for these devices in the courthouse.

The guidance cites concerns that these types of devices could be used as weapons or explosives or used to live stream video or update social media and websites to broadcast court proceedings. It notes some courts strictly limit possession of devices in the courtroom while others allow them to be inside as long as they are off or silenced. The guidance also notes how courts handle requests by the media to use social media to provide text-based coverage of proceedings.

The guidance says whatever policy is adopted, ample notice should be provided through signs posted at the courthouse as well as on the court’s website and in notices provided to attorneys and jurors.

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