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The public can bring cell phones to some Delaware courthouses

Delaware Public Media

A pilot project is allowing the public to bring cell phones in certain courthouses.

The program recently started, permitting the public to bring cell phones in Family Court buildings in Kent and Sussex counties, Justice of the Peace Courts 3 and 17 in Georgetown, and Justice of the Peace Court 11 in New Castle.

Family Court Chief Judge Michael K. Newell explains why those particular courthouses were chosen.

"Our Kent and Sussex County Family Courts are free-standing buildings so we're not in a shared courthouse with other courts, and it seems to make sense to try them out in those areas."

The policy change comes after a year-long study by a Judicial Branch committee created to review the policy because the committee says the phones have become an essential tool of daily life.

The committee notes it is allowing cell phones in courthouses to help people that depend on them for work, family matters, and for self-represented litigants.

But Newell says there are rules.

"People can't use them for recording devices or videos. In the courthouse they can use their phones for example if they were to go to our records department and want to make a copy of their last court order as opposed to charging them for a photocopy they can take their phone and take a picture of it. Going into the courtroom the phone should be powered off so that they're not disruptive."

Newell adds if phones are on and become disruptive they will be confiscated.

He notes starting the program now is helpful for security and staff because with the pandemic rules the courthouses are not as full as usual.

Joe brings over 20 years of experience in news and radio to Delaware Public Media and the All Things Considered host position. He joined DPM in November 2019 as a reporter and fill-in ATC host after six years as a reporter and anchor at commercial radio stations in New Castle and Sussex Counties.