Courthouse Visitors Must Sign Contracts

VISITING A STATE COURTHOUSE IN NEW JERSEY? WANT TO CHECK YOUR EMAIL IN A COURTROOM? YOU HAVE TO SIGN A CONTRACT FIRST.

Courthouse visitors may need to use their smartphones and tablets. Up to now, it was not clear whether they could, legally. And, if they could, how, when and where. The New Jersey Supreme Court recently issued guidelines on these issues. These guidelines will take effect in February 2015.

People in the Courthouse will be allowed to possess and use electronic devices. However, they will not be allowed to take photographs, or record video or sound.

The above applies anywhere in a courthouse, except inside of courtrooms. If you want to use electronics inside a courtroom, you need to sign a contract. By signing the contract, you would agree to comply with the Supreme Court regulations.

The contract would be good for one year. After that, you would have to sign a new one. The contact must also be signed by a court administrator.

Using an electronic device in a courtroom without signing a contract may result in a user’s being held in contempt of court. Lawyers are not exempt from signing the agreement.

People who sign the contract must have a copy on them at all times when they visit the courthouse. However, the copy can be stored electronically, on a device.

Visitors who sign agreements are permitted to use their electronic devices in a courtroom to take notes and silently “receive communications and information.” The latter may be bureaucratic speak for email, but the directive does not say. The directive also does not indicate whether court personnel will be practicing “stop and frisk” to weed out courtroom electronics users who have not signed contracts.

And don’t even think about making or receiving a phone call in a courtroom.

Judges need not recognize the contracts in their courtrooms, if they deem that electronic device use “interferes with the administration of justice, poses a threat … or compromises the integrity of the proceedings.” There are separate regulations and requirements for those wishing to record a court proceeding.

You can read the guidelines here.

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