Las Vegas Sun

October 1, 2014

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Cameras in cell phones are latest court annoyance

As technology continues to advance, the judicial system must continue to take into account new gadgets that could potentially disturb court proceedings.

Bailiffs and clerks have long asked those attending court hearings to turn off cell phones to keep calls from interrupting proceedings, but now court officials are asking that they be turned off so pictures aren't taken in the courtroom.

Cell phones with cameras attached to them are becoming more common, and at U.S. District Court in Las Vegas these devices are usually held at the security checkpoint at the front of the building, or those who have the camera phones are told not to use them inside the courthouse, Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal Fidencio Rivera said.

"We try to strike a balance between the access people need and security," Rivera said.

District Court Administrator Chuck Short said that while cell phones and camera phones are not confiscated at the entrance to the County Courthouse, visitors are instructed by the judicial bailiff to turn the devices off during court proceedings.

"If cell phones go off, they're disruptive," Short said. "Also, for certain proceedings, confidentiality is a requirement. So by law we're not able to accommodate some requests."

Both courts prohibit tape recording, but while federal courts restrict cameras in courtrooms, the local courts sometimes allow cameras. Media outlets can make a request to a judge to allow cameras in a hearing.

Other times that cameras are allowed in are during adoption proceedings, where parents want to commemorate the proceedings, Short said.

People wishing to film courtrooms for commercial use must obtain a film permit through Clark County Business and Licensing, Short said.

While cameras are an issue the courts often deal with, the use of e-mail technology and handheld electronic pads is a little more unusual.

Short said county court has not experienced a problem with the use of e-mail technology in courtrooms so the issue has not been addressed. Reporters and court officials are generally permitted to use laptops in courtrooms, Short said.

In federal court as long as someone isn't recording the proceedings or disturbing a hearing, use of e-mail devices is not considered a problem, federal officials said.

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