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Cook County Court Cell Phone Ban Delayed: New Rule On Hold To Boost Public Awareness

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A ban that would keep electronic devices like cell phones out of Cook County courtrooms — except one in Chicago — has been put on hold.

The rule putting the kibosh on "electronic communication" or Internet devices was supposed to go into effect Monday, but the Tribune reports Chief Judge Timothy Evans has opted to stall the ban by three months while the public gets familiar with the change.

"We understand this may be an inconvenience to some, but our primary goal is to protect those inside our courthouses and perhaps save lives in the process," Evans said in a statement Friday.

The court originally said the ban was imposed "in response to reports that persons were misusing cell phones by photographing witnesses and jurors in courtrooms and public areas of the courthouse as well as live streaming court proceedings."

"We assumed initially, that since this was going on, that the sheriff's office would be able to stop the misuse of these devices in our courtrooms," said Judge Evans according to ABC Chicago. "But over a long period of time, that has not happened."

Critics told the Tribune the ban — which now goes into effect April 15 — will mean longer security lines and confusion at the courthouse; those coming to court via public transit in Chicago have called the ban a "hassle."

County sheriffs are reportedly reminding people to leave their electronics in the car, while the Daily Herald reports court reps are trying to devise a storage system for the devices — "possibly involving claim checks or lockers" — to accommodate court-goers using public transit.

The Chicago courtroom in the Richard J. Daley Center is the only location exempt from the ban on devices like smart phones, tablets, laptops and cell phones. Last January, an Illinois Supreme Court ruling made it legal in 23 counties to have cameras in trial courts--on an experimental, case-by-case basis.

The court is exempting certain people from the ban, including lawyers, judges, reporters, those seeking an order of protection or involved with the domestic violence assistance program and individuals under court monitoring via GPS ankle devices.

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