Cell Phones in Massachusetts Courthouses

Presently the use of cell phones by non-lawyers is banned in many Massachusetts Courthouses.  However, the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission (MAJC) recently issued a report that concluded that this ban creates hardships, especially for pro-se litigants (parties without attorneys).  For example, the Commission found that folks need to show the Court photographs, videos, text messages and other “evidence” that may be critical to their case but that they are unable to produce any other way.  This is especially true for small claims cases and abuse cases where the litigant does not have an attorney but has his or her best evidence on their phone.

Note that motor vehicle accident victims can file a small claim for property damage; without any dollar limitation.  However, to show the clerk magistrate their photos, most small claims litigants need their phones.

Presently, the MAJC found, some folks were hiding phones in the bushes or paying a local vender to store their phones while in court.  People also may need their phones to check on their children, or call in to work.  Doing so from the hallway would not be too disruptive.

Other issues were cited by the Commission including the fact that some courthouses lack facilities to secure cell phones while folks are in the building.

Yondr Pouches for the Courthouses?

The MAJC pointed out that many jurisdictions, and the Boston Public Schools, use the Yondr Pouch.  Invented in 2014, the Yondr pouch allows for a phone to be locked away but still in the possession of the owner!  The Board of Bar Examiners allows for use of Yondrs during bar exams.  The MAJ Commission cited the Yondr pouches that secure phones but allow the owners to retain possession throughout the courthouses.

Chief Justice Paula Carey Reviews Commission Study

The Chief Justice of the Trial Court indicated that the Courts must “balance safety and security concerns with the need for increased access to cell phones” because distractions, privacy and safety are critical for the Court.  Note that the MAJC is chaired by Supreme Judicial Court Justice Ralph Gants, so the courts are working together to achieve…equal justice.

The MAJC has a mission to “obtain equal justice for all persons in the Commonwealth” and includes attorneys, law professors, judges and community members.

Use of Cell Phones and Etiquette in the Courtroom

I was at a 341 Creditors Hearing before a Federal Bankruptcy Trustee recently.  Our client, who had filed for personal bankruptcy protection, was testifying about their assets, their debts, and the reasons necessitating filing for bankruptcy.  Nevertheless, a person sitting awaiting a hearing answered her cellphone.  She spoke, loudly, as if no one else was in the Hearing Room, about a matter that was clearly not urgent.  She didn’t bother to go into the anteroom.  The Trustee looked at the woman, looked at me, and continued on with the hearing in a professional manner.  This would never have been allowed in a Courtroom.

Contact Burns & Jain for Free Consultation

If you have a personal injury case in Massachusetts, contact Attorney Neil Burns and Attorney Roshan Jain.  We have decades of combined experience in winning judgments and settlements for their clients.  And they would never take a phone call in a Courtroom!