County judge bans cellphones in courtrooms

SMETHPORT – The use of cellphones in courtrooms has been banned for several years.Now it’s illegal to even possess a cellphone in a McKean County court facility.President County Judge John Pavlock has issued an order against “the use and possession of any electronic devices” in any county courtroom.In addition to cellphones, the banned devices include video cameras, camera phones and personal data assistants (PDAs).According to the judge’s order, the county security staff and the McKean County Sheriff’s Department is responsible for “enforcement of this policy.”As a courtesy, the security officers will provide a “lockbox” for storing cell phones and electronic devices while individuals are in court. The county is not responsible for the damage or loss of devices left in the “lockbox,” the judge said in his order.In a memo that accompanied his order, Pavlock pointed out that the county court has had “numerous issues with individuals inadvertently forgetting to turn off their phones and having them ring—or blare out an old AC-DC or rock tune” during court sessions.Pavlock also said he is “100 percent certain” that he has “witnessed individuals sneak off a text message or ‘tweet' on their cellphones in the courtroom.“I could and would continue to just put up with these disruptions and hand out a few sanctions every now and then to discourage them,” Pavlock said in his memo. But the judge believes there is “more at stake here than mere annoyance.”“Therefore, I have decided to completely ban the possession of cell phones and other electronic devices in the courtroom,” he said.A report that also accompanies Pavlock’s ruling points out that some jurors in U.S. courtrooms have used cell phones to “obtain additional information” on the cases before them.