A few bad apples will spoil the bunch. At least this is the case at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse located at 26th and California in Chicago. Last week, officials announced that they were removing all of the storage lockers where courthouse visitors are able to keep personal belongings like cell phones and other items while attending court. The lockers were especially useful at 26th and California where cell phones are banned. But, many people were using the lockers for purposes other than their intention and this has caused the Department of Facilities Management to remove them on April 2nd.
Of course, more than two dozen items are banned from all courtrooms including weapons of any kind, but the courthouse at 26th and California does not allow visitors to bring cell phones or cameras inside the courtrooms at all. In 2013, all cell phones were banned from the Leighton Criminal Court building after safety issues arose. The safety issues involved court visitors taking photographs of witnesses, judges and other courtroom participants that could potentially be used to intimidate them and, according to Chief Judge Evans, could result in physical harm to court participants. The ban at 26th & Cal. includes all cell phones, cameras, or other devices that are able to record and or connect to the internet.
The locker removal seems to be happening for a few reasons. One reason is that according to the Cook County Department of Facilities Management, who is responsible for the storage lockers, they are being used to store contraband instead of just holding cell phones. The intention for the lockers is that they would be used to store personal items and cell phones, but instead visitors are storing contraband and other prohibited items in them that are causing safety issues for everyone involved with the court. The lockers are specifically causing safety concerns for the staff, who are not security personnel, but are responsible for the lockers. It’s hard to keep track of what items are being stored in the lockers and who is using what locker and, for that reason, many issues have arisen. Another reason for the removal is that it’s difficult to ensure that the cell phones will never enter the courtroom when they are in fact still in the building — although stored in a locker. Judge Evans believes that the only way to ensure the safety of everyone in the court is to take the lockers out completely. What better way to ensure that cell phones never make their way into a courtroom than to make sure they never enter the building at all?
Now, this removal of lockers may create a few issues for those who frequent the courthouses. If you bring a prohibited item like a cell phone into the courthouse, you won’t pass through security. In this situation, you may potentially miss your court date if you’re tied up dealing with issues at security and face a slew of consequences like contempt of court, have your bond revoked or other punishments depending on the role you play in the case. In the past, you were obviously able to put that cell phone in a locker. Security will ask those who do bring cell phones in to return them to their cars. But, those who take public transportation will have to plan accordingly and make sure the phones stay at home, because they will not be allowed inside the courthouse with any of the aforementioned devices.
There are a few people (like judges and lawyers) who are exempt from the cell phone ban and this list has remained the same. For a full list of people who are exempt from the ban and rules regarding the cell phone ban click here.
As always if you should have any questions regarding changes to courthouse rules or if you need legal assistance, feel free to contact us and one of our skilled attorneys will be happy to assist you.