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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. � Jurors and witnesses in South Florida federal trials will no longer have to bury their cellphones in the ground before entering the courthouse. U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno, chief judge for the Southern District of Florida, issued an order last week expanding the use of cellphones in the courthouse to prospective jurors, seated jurors and witnesses. The cellphones may have integrated cameras, he stated. The issue of cellphones in federal court has been somewhat controversial in South Florida. Previous chief judges refused to even allow lawyers to carry cellphones into the courtroom, both for security concerns and to prevent photographs from being taken. Cameras are not allowed in federal courts nationwide, however a movement is now afoot to change that rule. Since 2006, lawyers, judges, courthouse employees and federal agents have been allowed to bring cellphones into federal courthouses throughout South Florida, including in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. But jurors, reporters and others have complained about the rule. Sometimes unaware of it, visitors to the courthouses have been forced to bury their cellphones in the ground outside the courthouses and retrieve them when leaving. In his order, Moreno noted that judges may need to contact jurors during recesses and attorneys may need to contact witnesses on short notice. Because U.S. marshals will inspect all cellphones, security is not a concern, he stated. “In today’s modern world, security concerns are paramount,” stated the order. “Yet these security concerns are satisfied by airlines, the White House, and the majority of courthouses in the United States where cellular telephones are permitted. Expanding the list to include these individuals will not diminish the security provided to the occupants of the courthouse, while at the same time enhance the availability of jurors and witnesses to participate in our court proceedings.” Moreno did not extend the privilege to the use of laptops.

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