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Can You Hear Me Now? Judge Bans Cell Phones from Clarion County Courtrooms

Friday, February 21, 2020 @ 12:02 AM

Posted by Ron Wilshire

1A181415-E39C-426B-891C-1673691DF2A4_1_201_aCLARION, Pa. (EYT) – Clarion County Sheriff’s Deputies are now collecting firearms and cell phones or any electronic device capable of audio or video recording upon entry to the Clarion County Courthouse as people pass through security review at the basement entrance.

(PHOTO: Corporal Justin Swartzfager and Deputy Derek Holt display the new cell phone lockers near the courthouse security entrance.)

Firearms and cell phones are kept in lockers until their owners leave the courthouse. Firearms have been collected for many years for security reasons. President Judge Sara J. Seidle-Patton added cell phones on a February 14, 2020, Administrative Order.

“All cell phones, computers, laptops, tablets, and similar electric devices are prohibited in all hearing rooms and courtrooms within the Clarion County Courthouse,” states the Order.

The lockers were being used during Thursday morning’s court session. Corporal Justin Swartzfager and Deputy Derek Holt said about 25 of the 30 lockers were in use.

“Court employees, attorneys, sheriff’s deputies and law-enforcement are permitted to have and use these items in the course of their duties. With the court’s approval, participants involved in adoption proceedings, swearing-in ceremonies, and other such proceedings may use these devices to memorialize the event.”

Judge Seidle-Patton designated the Clarion County Sheriff’s Department responsible for the implementation and enforcement of the provisions in the Order. The Sheriff’s Department also has the discretion to confiscate devices or escort an individual out of the courthouse for violation of this policy, according to the judicial Order. Any individual who willingly fails to abide by the terms of the Order may be held in contempt.

Sheriff Rex Munsee was not available for comment.

Cell phone lockers are provided at the security entrance to the courthouse near the sheriff’s office and in the lobby of Court Room One on the second floor.

“Lockers for large electronic devices are also available at the security entrance,” continues the Order. “Cell phones and other electronic devices are to be powered off and placed inside a locker either upon entrance to the courthouse through the security entrance or before entering any courtroom, conference room, or hearing room to participate in any judicial proceeding. Upon completion of the court proceedings, individuals shall retrieve their cell phone or other electronic devices from the locker.”

Other Pennsylvania counties have also adopted similar judicial Orders.

Several court observers noted it is difficult to hear much of what goes on in Court Room One because of the high ceilings, acoustics, and an inadequate speaker system.



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