Kevin Hilgendorf from Bremen contacted GIANT fm WTCA this week with a concern he has with no cell phones in the Marshall County courthouse.  He said, “I would like to know if you can do a story about the illegal rule posted on our County Courthouse front door. It was made up by our current local judges. It basically says “no phones in courthouse.”
Mr. Hilgendor’s email continued, “This is an illegal posting on a public space. I have tried to question the judges and they have refused to talk about it. The Supreme Court of the USA has ruled about public space and no rule can be placed in any public space. They know this and still refuse to talk about another option. I have tried to explain they can put any rule like this in their courtrooms. That is the only non-public space they can make up rules over.”

GIANT fm WTCA reached out to a couple of judges in the Marshall County Courthouse and Circuit Court Judge Curt Palmer responded with a public comment. 

Judge Palmer said, “The Indiana Code of Judicial Conduct (below) sets out certain requirements that we judges must follow. When cell phones first became common, we did not have a local rule prohibiting bringing them into the courthouse although we did post rules indicating that photography and recording of proceedings were not allowed. Unfortunately, we experienced a number of instances where members of the public secretly recorded proceedings in the courtrooms and then shared those recordings to the public in violation of the rules. We found the only practical way to enforce the ban on recordings was to prohibit the public from entering the building with their phones.”

RULE 2.17: Prohibiting Broadcasting of Proceedings

A judge shall prohibit broadcasting, televising, recording, or taking photographs in the courtroom and areas immediately adjacent thereto. However, a judge may authorize:

(1)     the use of electronic or photographic means for the presentation of evidence, for the perpetuation of a record, or for other purposes of judicial administration;

(2)    the broadcasting, televising, recording, or photographing of investitive or ceremonial proceedings;

(3)    the broadcasting, televising, recording, digital streaming, or photographing of court proceedings or the courtroom by members of the news media under the following conditions:

        (a)    the means of recording will not distract participants or impair the dignity of the proceedings; and

        (b)    the broadcasting is restricted to non-confidential proceedings.

Judge Palmer continued his response, “The federal courts have ruled that cell phones are generally allowed in federal buildings for certain purposes, but there is currently no similar rule in Indiana for State buildings such as courthouses. Our Indiana Supreme Court through their Office of Court Services has advised us that if we have a local rule prohibiting cell phones in the courthouse building, we should uniformly enforce that rule.”

The county judges have made the decision to not allow cell phones in the courthouse and security offers lockers for patrons to use if they don’t want to go back to their vehicles to secure their phones.