Following the recommendation of its Access to Justice Commission, the Massachusetts Trial Court Department is taking immediate steps to lift the ban on cell phones on state courthouses.
The Commission’s report
cited hardships such as the inability of self-represented litigants to present photos or text messages as evidence to a judge, to consult their calendars, to reach child care providers, or to transact other “essential” business.
The recommendations of the working group include a full review of all courthouse bans to determine whether they are justified, and a pilot program to test the use of magnetically locked security pouches.
“Instead of using a strategy that relies on prohibiting the possession of cell phones as a condition of entry, each courthouse should employ a strategy, tailored to its security needs, that relies on regulating and controlling the use of cell phones within the building,” the authors of the report wrote.
This seems like a sensible step in the right direction. The made sense to ban phones in an earlier era, where the potential distraction might outweigh their value. But the near necessity of cell phones today–for child care and emergency communications, as memory and scheduling devices, and as carriers of critical personal information–merits a different response.