Courtesy Rosemary Marasso

Circuit Court of Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans announced that starting Monday, April 15, 2013, the court will begin the enforcement of the full ban on all electronic communications and Internet devices at the George N. Leighton Criminal Court Building at 26th and California.

The ban, which was announced on January 11, 2013, is designed to go into effect in all 13 Circuit Court of Cook County courthouses (excluding the Richard J. Daley Center). Chief Judge Evans will institute a rolling implementation of the ban in the remaining 12 courthouses once the Cook County Real Estate Division secures the onsite storage necessary to meet the Office of the Cook County Sheriff’s security requirements.

“This ban is important to uphold our justice system and the safety of our courts,” said Chief Judge Evans. “Intimidation will not be tolerated. Personal recording devices and cameras are not permitted in Illinois courtrooms.”

“I wish we could enact the ban in all 13 courthouses immediately. However, from the court’s view, it makes more sense to begin enforcement of the ban at the Leighton Criminal Court Building where the potential for security breaches is highest due to the sheer volume of cases heard there seven days a week.

“Of course the judges and I understand the ban presents an inconvenience for the public. I wish it were possible to just say to the people coming to court, “Please turn off your phones and devices.” The simple fact is we have tried that, and it does not work. People either ignore or refuse to comply with the judges’ directions; and the Sheriff’s staff has confirmed that their deputies cannot prevent the misuse of these devices in the courtrooms.

“It always must be remembered that a criminal case is a serious, solemn proceeding. A defendant’s liberty, or even life, is at stake. Often victims of crimes are in court. There should be no interruption of testimony by ringing phones and no texting of testimony to witnesses waiting to testify. Most important, no juror or witness should ever be afraid because a defendant’s supporters are taking their pictures.”

Anyone coming to the Leighton Criminal Court Building is strongly encouraged to leave all electronic communications and Internet devices at home to avoid delays at the courthouse security checkpoint. Sheriff’s personnel will direct persons with such devices who drove to court to return to their vehicles to store devices while public transit users will be directed to a limited number of storage vending machines that are provided by Cook County.

Certain persons are exempted from the ban as follows, upon presentation of the required identification, credentials, or authorization, as determined by the Cook County Sheriff:

  • persons with disabilities, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act, who require electronic devices for effective communication;
  • current or former judges;
  • licensed attorneys;
  • members of the news media;
  • local, state, and federal law enforcement officers;
  • employees of any local, state, or federal government agencies or offices;
  • any person reporting for jury duty pursuant to summons;
  • building and maintenance tradespeople, equipment repairpersons, and vendors;
  • domestic violence advocates and counselors as defined by 750 ILCS 60/227(a)(2);
  • authorized employees and agents of attorneys;
  • any person or category of persons pursuant to order of court;
  • persons who are present at the courthouse to obtain civil orders of protection, stalking no contact orders, or civil no contact orders or parties to a proceeding who are present at the courthouse to attend a proceeding related to an underlying order of protection, stalking no contact order, civil no contact order or other related proceedings;
  • participants in a domestic violence assistance program;
  • persons required by court order or the sheriff to wear an electronic monitoring device; and
  • parties to orders of protection who are required to carry a GPS devices.