CLE housing court getting tougher on cell phone use in the courtroom

New two page cell phone guidelines issued
Posted at 10:43 PM, Aug 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-17 22:43:31-04

Cleveland's Housing Court is getting tougher on people who use their cell phones while court is in session.

The problem has become so prolific the court has issued a two-page set of guidelines, that also allows a bailiff to order someone caught taking pictures or video to unlock their phone so the content can be reviewed or erased.

Cleveland Housing Court Judge Raymond Pianka told cell phones are not only a distraction but they are increasingly jeopardizing the integrity of the courtroom process.

"If someone is taking photographs it can be dangerous and disruptive to judicial system," said Pianka

Pianka and housing court bailiff Eric Foster said cell phone cameras put the anonymity of jurors and other groups in the courtroom at risk.

"The safety of witnesses, the safety of officers, especially undercover officers, and informants, their safety," said Foster.

"The court has to do what has to be done in order to keep the integrity of the process. There is definitely an over-riding interest that the court has, as opposed to someone's personal interest in getting into their phone."

Foster believes courtroom content taken by cell phones, and then posted on social media, can easily be taken out of context.

"You get viral videos from people taking simple statements from a judge or simple statements that a witness makes to insinuate that that person is saying this, or that person is a rat," said Foster.

Foster told if a person is asked to give up their phone, or unlock it, and they don't comply, they could deemed in contempt of court and could face jail time.

Foster said the new housing court cell phone guidelines are being looked at by Cuyahoga County Court, and could potentially be implemented in other northeast Ohio courtrooms.