​New Rules for Electronic Devices in Courtrooms

The rapid expansion of new technology and the resulting impact in the courtroom are topics we have covered here for some time, including a few recommended guidelines that have been offered for federal jurisdictions.

Now, the New Jersey Supreme Court has taken the next step by issuing uniform rules governing how attorneys and others in the courtroom are expected to behave when it comes to their smartphones and other wireless devices.

Taking effect in early February, the new rules are designed to allow courthouse goers to use their high-tech gadgets without harming the parties’ cases or delaying courtroom proceedings. Restrictions and allowances governing cameras in the courtroom have been on the books in many states for years, but the New Jersey rules covering today’s mobile devices appear to be the first of their kind.

In addition to limiting where such devices can be used within the courthouse, the new rules also dictate how they can be used. For example, email communications in the hallway will be permitted, while taking photographs is banned. The rules also will require annual, renewable written agreements from lawyers and others who use their devices inside New Jersey courtrooms. Failure to honor the agreement can result in sanctions, including contempt of court.

No doubt we have entered an era where the rapid change of technological life will continually test the ability of courts and lawyers to keep up.  But the move by the New Jersey Supreme Court demonstrates that the courts are neither unaware of the issue nor unwilling to take steps to insure the fair administration of justice while permitting the technology we all use today.

Posted: 3/6/2015 9:20:19 AM by Editor | with 0 comments

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Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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