Alamance Considers Banning Cell Phones from Courthouses

GRAHAM, N.C. -- The Alamance County Courts chief district court judge said he is considering banning cell phones and other electronics devices with photo-taking capability from courthouses.

The idea, if enacted, would follow the controversial electronics ban Guilford County Courts enacted Feb. 3.

If a similar ban were enacted in Alamance County, chief district court judge Jim Roberson said he would give Alamance residents months of notice before it were to go into effect. He said this idea is not one created to follow suit with bans in other courthouses. Instead, he said it is a proposal he has considered for a while.

"Long before I heard about Guilford County or Rockingham County or any other county [in our area] taking this step, my security folks, my bailiffs, the security team out front were asking me to consider a ban on cell phones," Roberson said.

Roberson explained that a few months ago, an individual attempted to bring a taser through security. That taser was disguised as a cell phone.

Security concerns are not the only reason Roberson cites for why he is considering the ban. Disruption, he said, is a significant factor. He said many people ignore signs posted outside the courtrooms, which warn cell phones must be turned off during proceedings. These phones therefore create distractions and disturbances in court. Thirdly, he said privacy is currently at risk when people bring cell phones into the courtroom. He said jurors and attorneys are often intimidated by the possibility someone might take a photo of them and compromise their safety.

Roberson addressed potential concerns about storage, particularly for individuals who take public transportation or get rides to court and have no car in which to store a cell phone. Such a concern was a source of controversy in Guilford County's ban and eventually caused Guilford County Courts to install pay phones at the end of February.

Roberson said lack of space for storage is "probably the chief hold up" in putting a ban in place in Alamance courthouses. "We don't have room for locker space in our courthouse security area. We weren't actually built to have a security at all out front in this courthouse, so that's a problem. If we had a ban, it would get several months notice."

Alamance County Courts already have pay phones installed and have significantly fewer people who take public transportation than those who do in Guilford County. He indicated these factors might make individuals n Alamance County more receptive to the idea of a ban.

In order for a ban to go into effect, Roberson and the senior resident superior court judge would have to give their consent. He re-emphasized for now, the idea is only a possibility under consideration.

On the WFMY News Facebook page, viewers expressed mixed opinions about the idea. Shanon Lee wrote, "I understand the disruption and privacy part. However, if I have to sit in a courtroom all day, then I need to be able to be contacted. With three children, you never know when the school or daycare may need me to come get one of them."

Stevie-Lynn Kellis wrote, "I think they (cell phones) should be banned from the court room... Have arrangements and back-up plans ready for kids. Leave the courthouse number with (the) sitter, and they can have a message sent to you if (an) emergency happens."

Do you want to share your thoughts about this idea? Join in on the discussion on the WFMY News 2 Facebook page.


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