Monday, March 23, 2009

New administrative order on text messaging, emailing, twittering, typing, and cellular phone use

Judge Moreno issued a new administrative order today allowing reporters to bring their cells into the courthouse, but:

prohibit[ing] text messaging, emailing, twittering, typing, and any cellular phone use from inside courtrooms. These actions by persons inside the courtroom violate the sanctity of the courtroom and disrupt ongoing judicial proceedings.

Judge Moreno went on to explain:

The Court, however, must balance the interests of preserving the conduct of judicial proceedings against the public's right to know what happens inside courtrooms. Accordingly, it is

ADJUDGED that emailing, text messaging, twittering, typing, and using cellular phones
shall continue to be prohibited inside the District's courtrooms. It is also

ADJUDGED that to balance the interest in preserving the sanctity and conduct of judicial
proceedings against the public's right to know what occurs inside the District's courtrooms, this Order amends Administrative Orders 2006- 16 and 2008-07 to allow news reporters to bring cellular phones, Blackberries, iPhones, Palm Pilots, and other similar electronic personal digital assistants (PDAs) into the courthouse consistent with what is permitted of attorneys, as long as the news reporters agree in writing not to email, text message, twitter, type, or use their cellular phones or other electronic device inside the District's courtrooms. A violation of the agreement will result in contempt of court. The Clerk of Court shall keep the list of reporters who have signed such agreement and make that list available to Court security personnel assigned to each courthouse. The Clerk of Court shall also make space available in each courthouse for those listed reporters to use their cellular phones and other electronic devices outside of the courtrooms. Of course, District and Magistrate Judges retain the discretion to maintain order in their courtrooms, which includes the right to lock their courtrooms should the entry and exit of news reporters become disruptive in a particular proceeding.

I applauded Judge Moreno for the last administrative orders on cell phones, allowing jurors to bring in their phones and allowing lawyers to have cells with cameras (as long as they weren't used) and his propensity to have an open courthouse with a free flow of information, but this order doesn't get it all right. True, the part of this order allowing reporters to bring in their cells is right on.

But not allowing anyone -- even lawyers in the gallery -- to email or text doesn't fit with all of Judge Moreno's recent efforts to catch the court up with technological advances. Does it disturb the courtroom more to write a note to an associate to go outside to call the secretary to bring over a certain file into the courtroom during trial or to shoot over a quick email (or text) asking for the file to be sent over electronically? Is it better for a reporter to scratch notes on a legal pad, run outside to make a phone call and then run back in to hear more of the witness or to simply send an email without getting up?

Plus, the administrative order says that the use of blackberries by lawyers shall continue to be prohibited inside the courtroom. In every single courtroom I have been in, there are lawyers emailing -- A LOT. (In fact, I spoke to a lawyer yesterday who had a cortisone shot in her thumb for typing so much.) So this sounds like a new prohibition to me.

And let me ask this -- does the email prohibition inside the courtroom apply to judges and staff as well? Sorry, but there is always an awful lot of typing going on from everywhere inside the courtrooms, not just counsel table.

Well, the Chief has made a lot of advances with cell phone usage, so it's hard to criticize this order too harshly. And I do love that Judge Moreno knows what Twitter is...

UPDATE -- did I jump the gun? An emailer points out that the order prohibiting emailing, texting, etc may only apply to reporters, not to lawyers. Hmmmmm... It seems more broad than that, but I'd like to be wrong. Thoughts?

SECOND UPDATE -- I was right.


Miguel M. de la O said...

Quite the appropriate Courtoon today.

Rumpole said...

The order is not clear. I have the same question. Can an attorney email from the courtroom? Usually this occurs during a break when the court is in recess and the attorney checks his blackberry and wants to respond to an email from the office.

Someone should let Moreno know the order is a bit vague on this issue because you can bet those Fed Marshals will be grabbing blackberrys every chance they get.

Anonymous said...


Can you post more pictures of your fish?