Proposed rules to make use of cellphones and other portable electronics more consistent through state courthouses were released May 15 by the Michigan Supreme Court, and while the rules would allow for cellphones in the courthouse, making a phone call in a courtroom during a proceeding as well as using it for photographs, recording or broadcasting will be prohibited.

The proposed rules are open for public comment and the Supreme Court will take comments on them through September 1. The proposed rules would strike current rules that allow a local court’s chief judge to create a policy using cellphones, laptops, tablets and other portable electronic devices.

Under the proposed rules litigants, their attorneys, witnesses (specifically those called to testify), onlookers and jurors will be governed by the rules on using cellphones and other electronics.
Essentially, cellphones currently cannot be used in a courtroom in any way, especially to photograph, record or broadcast unless the judge presiding permits such activities. The rules also prohibit photographing, recording or broadcasting any person outside the courtroom without that person’s permission.

The rules also require both jurors and witnesses to have their electronic devices turned off while in the courtroom. Lawyers as well as members of the public will be permitted to use electronic devices in a courtroom to retrieve information, store information, access the Internet and send texts or emails. However, they must
silence those devices and cannot use them to make calls or other engage in audible functions. Also, no communication is allowed between attorneys and onlookers with anyone participating in a
proceeding, including a witness or juror. If any of the rules are violated, the judge can seize the device for the rest of the day, or at least order it turned off and put away. Multiple violations can result in a person being charged with contempt.

Emails on the proposed rules can sent to  [email protected] and mail regarding the rules can
be sent to the Supreme Court Clerk at P.O. Box 30052, Lansing, MI, 48909.

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