Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
When Eastern District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis asked an attorney last month whether he and his client could appear for a status conference in August, the attorney, Joel S. Cohen, sheepishly said he did not know. Mr. Cohen meant no disrespect to the court. The problem was that his PDA (personal digital assistant, for those one or two attorneys who do not own one) had been checked at the courthouse door. Without it, Mr. Cohen could not consult his calendar. Judge Garaufis had Mr. Cohen escorted to the entrance by one of his staff to recover the device. “It seems like everyone else in the world can bring a phone into the courthouse except defense attorneys,” the judge said. In truth, only prosecutors and courthouse personnel with IDs (including newspaper reporters) are allowed to bring cell phones inside the courthouse. Other attorneys on trial routinely obtain written exceptions from judges, as required by Local Civil Rule 1.8. The same rule applies in the Southern District. That may change by this fall, at least in the Eastern District. The original purpose of the rule was to prevent disruptions from chattering attorneys, litigants or other citizens. After the 9/11 attacks concerns about terrorism and hidden triggers for explosives were added to the list. Yet cell phones and PDAs so pervade the legal industry these days that lawyers, for better or worse, often cannot function without them. “I still carry around a leather date book,” said Ephraim Savitt, a regular practitioner in the Eastern District whose status conference followed Mr. Cohen’s last month. “But I’m really dependent on my cell phone. You can’t even live without that anymore.” Chief Judge Edward R. Korman and his colleagues have long heard complaints from attorneys about the restrictions, and they recently set up a committee to consider whether the policy should be changed. Judge Raymond Dearie, who was instrumental in the construction of the new courthouse designed by Cesar Pelli, is heading the committee that includes Judges Carol B. Amon and Joseph F. Bianco. Judge Dearie supports revisions that would at least allow all attorneys, if not the general public, to bring cell phones into the courthouse. “I have my own personal views that we ought to relax things for lawyers,” Judge Dearie said. Each district court in the country follows its own local rules on cell phones, and not all large metropolitan areas are as restrictive as New York. In Chicago, Judge Dearie said, there are no restrictions at all on bringing cells phones and PDAs into the courthouse. Judge Dearie said some of his colleagues have reservations about loosening the policy, and he said the U.S. Marshals Service weighs in on matters of security. As a compromise, the court might consider adopting an ID-card similar to the one now used in state courts. The Eastern District could also simply make state court secure passes, which require a background check, valid in the federal courthouse. Clifford P. Kirsch, the district executive in the Southern District, said the judges in his district have considered amending the cell phone rule in the past, but not recently. However, he said any changes in the Eastern District might cause his district to give the issue more consideration. Mr. Savitt, for one, said there was no reason to worry about becoming suddenly overwhelmed by ring tones in the normally quiet confines of the courthouse. “Attorneys should know decorum and what their responsibilities are,” he said. “If ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’ disrupts a summation, that person will have to pay for it.” Tom Perrotta can be reached at [email protected]

This content has been archived. It is available exclusively through our partner LexisNexis®.

To view this content, please continue to Lexis Advance®.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber? Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® is now the exclusive third party online distributor of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® customers will be able to access and use ALM's content by subscribing to the LexisNexis® services via Lexis Advance®. This includes content from the National Law Journal®, The American Lawyer®, Law Technology News®, The New York Law Journal® and Corporate Counsel®, as well as ALM's other newspapers, directories, legal treatises, published and unpublished court opinions, and other sources of legal information.

ALM's content plays a significant role in your work and research, and now through this alliance LexisNexis® will bring you access to an even more comprehensive collection of legal content.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.