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Judges consider cellphone restrictions after court video hits Facebook

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Disturbed by recent incidents in which video of open court has found its way online, Marion County judges on Friday discussed restricting cellphones in court.

“I’m alarmed,” court administrator Andrea Newsom said of two recent instances she conveyed to judges and court staff during a meeting of the Marion Superior Court Executive Committee. Newsom said court video in one instance was uploaded to Facebook. In another instance, someone in the gallery recorded and streamed video live. Upon learning of the latter violation, a judge mandated the video be removed from a cloud computing server.

“It’s serious enough now with two known incidents to bring it to the attention of the court and talk about next steps,” Newsom said.

Newsom said the activity is a clear violation of Judicial Code of Conduct Rule 2.17 that prohibits the broadcasting of court proceedings. Executive Committee Chairman Judge David Certo said there’s a larger issue: ensuring the safety and security of court participants. One judge said it’s believed that a criminal informant may have been photographed in one instance.

“My proposed solution is to not allow cellphones in the courtroom,” said Marion Superior Criminal Division Judge Marc Rothenberg. He said he would exempt a select few including law enforcement. The committee requested Newsom develop proposed solutions to be presented to all Marion Superior judges during a General Term meeting.

Judges expressed frustration that signs in court notifying observers of the prohibition on recording with handheld devices haven’t deterred some, nor have judges’ admonitions in court. Criminal Division Judge James Osborn said that even if judges discover video or photos have been taken, there’s little that can be done if the images appear online. “Once it’s out, it’s out,” he said.

Newsom said Indiana Supreme Court administration advises judges who become aware of a violation to create a record entry noting that the recording has occurred. Material recorded in violation of Rule 2.17 that appears online can be removed by court order, she said.

Also Friday, the Marion Superior Court Executive Committee:

  • Approved a grant-funded pilot program allowing juvenile probation to collect drug screens through an oral cheek swab rather than the customary urine sample. Chief probation officer Christine Kerl said the division hopes to make the alternate test available within 60 days for those subject to mandated drug screens. Probation staff said the swab is more convenient and can be administered anywhere at any time by probation officers. The new tests should increase participation, since about 40 percent of juveniles fail to show up for required screens currently taken at lab facilities, according to the probation division.  
  • Granted a request from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to access public records of criminal offenders from Marion County’s JUSTIS case management system.


 

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