If you are a lawyer practicing in the Middle District of North Carolina, you will be excited about Standing Order #2, issued by the Judges of the Court on January 8th.
The Order authorizes the use of cellphones -- even those with cameras -- in the courthouses of the District. The banning of cellphones with cameras has long been a bugaboo for lawyers practicing here. And after all, can you even buy a cellphone without a camera anymore?
Here are the answers to some of the questions you may have about this sea change in Middle District procedures:
When is the new policy effective? It is effective immediately.
What about my clients? Can they bring their cellphones to Court? No, the policy applies only to attorneys, including out of state attorneys who are appearing with local counsel per Local Rule 83.1(d).
What about paralegals and personnel of my law firm? They are not covered by this policy.
Can I let someone with me use my cellphone in the courthouse? No, the Standing Order says that "[p]ermitted attorneys shall maintain sole custody over the electronic device and shall not allow it to be used by anyone else unless they have been given court permission."
Is there anything I need to do to get my cellphone into the courthouses? Yes, you need to fill out a form for an "Electronic Device Permission Card." Submit the form with a self-addressed stamped envelope. You'll need to show the card upon entering a courthouse with your cellphone.
But I already have a Laptop Authorization Card. Do I need to reapply for an Electronic Device Permission Card? Yes. Here's the form.
Does this new policy apply in the Bankruptcy Court courthouses? Yes, it applies to all of the federal courthouses in the Middle District.
What about my iPad and other electronic devices? They are all included. The new policy extends to "cell phones, laptops, tablets [and] other electronic devices."
Are there any other restrictions I should know about? Yes, you need to make sure that your device is not emitting any sounds while in the courtroom. In most situations, it should be turned off while in the courtroom. As always, you are prohibited from "record[ing], broadcast[ing] or transmit[ting] any video images or audio sounds of the proceedings or the environs." You agree in advance to these restrictions (and others) when applying for an Electronic Device Permission Card.
What if I violate the restrictions? You might forfeit your privileges, have your device confiscated, or be held in contempt of court.
What about the Eastern and Western Districts? The policy on electronic devices varies from District to District. I wrote about the Eastern and Western District's policies a couple of years ago.