Mobile phones increasingly out of order in the courtroom


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Shawn Stewart's phone beeped as he was sitting in an Allegheny County courtroom waiting to be called as a witness.

"It was one beep. My phone was in my hand and they just took it. I had to sit in court like five hours to get it back," Stewart, 20, of Penn Hills said. "I didn't know. It was my first time in a courtroom."

Stewart and dozens of other people every month draw the ire of judges with their cell phone rings, beeps, songs and buzzes.

The electronic annoyances can become more than an embarrassment to the offending party. A judge in Kentucky sentenced a man to jail for 72 hours after his phone made noise. Many local judges said jail time is excessive but small fines are acceptable.

Stewart later was given his phone back ? along with a directive to donate $50 to charity for violating Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning's cell phone policy.

"If you can afford a cell phone, you can afford to donate $50 to charity," Manning said. "It's very disruptive."

Manning, who has handed out about 25 such fines in the past three years, isn't alone among Allegheny County judges. Judge Jill E. Rangos forces scofflaws to donate $25 to the Children's Room, a charity that sponsors a children's area in the courthouse.

"Some days we have multiple phones going off," Rangos said. "It's a matter of respect for the court. Sometimes in the middle of court proceedings, there will be a song playing. It's disruptive and disrespectful."

Duquesne University law professor Bruce Ledewitz said judges wield broad power when it comes to keeping order in the courtroom.

"It's fundamentally contempt of court," Ledewitz said. "It's something you have control over. Presumably, you're told when you come in to shut off the phone. It's not much different than talking, and judges have thrown people in jail for talking."

Signs posted around the courthouse inform people that phones are not to be used and should be turned off. Still, the calls come at the worst times.

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Damn right, it is a matter of respect. You should not have your phone switched on in court, whatever reason you are there for.

Good of him to make them donate money to the Children's room :D

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Damn right, it is a matter of respect. You should not have your phone switched on in court, whatever reason you are there for.

(Y)

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Damn right, it is a matter of respect. You should not have your phone switched on in court, whatever reason you are there for.

Good of him to make them donate money to the Children's room :D

+1

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I know in Ontario CAN, you can be held in contempt of the court, if the judge (or one of the Court Officers) even SEES your phone in your hand, let alone a beep! I was warned once, for reading the news while waiting for my name to be called, and was told the fine would be $5000, or 6 months in jail or both.

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I agree with the rules, but it sounds like the Judge can basically make up whatever rule he feels like regardless of the law.

Not really.

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