CHICAGO — Beginning Jan. 14, members of the public will no longer be allowed to bring cell phones in to criminal courthouses in Cook County.
Chief Judge Timothy Evans announced Tuesday that cell phones and other devices capable of connecting to the Internet or making audio and visual recordings will be banned in all Circuit Court of Cook County courtrooms where criminal cases are heard.
The rule change is intended to prevent "gang members and others" from trying to intimidate witnesses, judges and jurors.
“Judges brought their concerns to me that people attending court proceedings were using their cell phones to photograph witnesses, judges, jurors, and prospective jurors," Evans said in a statement. "They also said persons appeared to be texting testimony to witnesses waiting their turn to testify outside the courtroom, while others were attempting to stream live to media comments by judges from the bench.”
People who sneak electronic devices into the courtrooms could be held in contempt, according to the judge's order.
The ban will not apply at Daley Center, where most of the cases heard are civil lawsuits, traffic cases and minor criminal cases.
And, court officials, police and corrections officers, attorneys, members of the media, government employees and others on officials business will be exempt from the rule.