Home Gadgets New cell phone/smart watch policy taking effect in Luzerne County Court

New cell phone/smart watch policy taking effect in Luzerne County Court

Starting Thursday, those attending Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas proceedings will be required to turn off their cell phones and smart watches and keep them in locked pouches, according to a policy enacted by President Judge Michael T. Vough.

“It’s really aimed at not disrupting court proceedings,” said county Court Administrator Paul Hindmarsh.

Hindmarsh said there have been instances of devices ringing during hearings and trials and attendees attempting to use devices to record audio or images during proceedings.

There are no available statistics on the frequency, but Hindmarsh said such disruptions have been “on the rise,” despite posted signs. More courts across the country are implementing similar measures, he said.

The procedure applies to both the courthouse on River Street in Wilkes-Barre and the nearby Bernard C. Brominski Building, which houses courtrooms and offices tied to county court.

Before explaining how the new procedure will work, here are those exempted:

• County employees and current/former judges

• Those visiting other areas of the courthouse — the district attorney’s office, prothonotary/clerk of courts, office, sheriff’s department, GIS/mapping department, protection-from-abuse office, court administration, county credit union, Center City Cafe and county council office/meeting room

• Federal/state/county/municipal law enforcement, including probation and parole officers, who display proper credentials upon request

• Attorneys who display their Bar Association card or Pennsylvania Bar license, along with any member of their trial support staff

• Citizens with a current jury summon or a juror’s badge

• Those with disabilities as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act that require them to have electronic devices to communicate, with proper authorization in writing

• Media personnel displaying proper credentials upon request

Participants involved in adoption proceedings, swearing-in ceremonies, weddings and other such events may use their devices to memorialize the occasion.

A county judge also may specifically permit other exceptions.


Unless meeting one of these exceptions, visitors to both buildings will be required to turn off their cell phones and smart watches and place them in a lockable pouch at the security station.

Visitors will maintain possession of the pouch.

Prior to exiting the building, the pouch will be unlocked by holding it up to an unlocking base. Once the devices are removed, the pouch must be returned to security.

The county sheriff’s department, which mans security stations, will handle the distribution and collection of the lockable pouches.

Each courtroom will be equipped with a device to unlock a pouch in the event it becomes necessary for someone to access them.

Device purchase

Court administration purchased the pouches and related equipment for $25,955 from Yondr Inc., according to the contract.

Hindmarsh said budgeted funds are available for the purchase.

According to the contract:

This purchase includes 450 pouches and 14 unlocking bases.

The Los Angeles, California-based Yondr supplied a letter to the court earlier this year confirming its pouch and associated system is a sole source product. In addition to courtrooms, the product is used in schools, at events, in workplaces and a myriad of other settings, its website says.

For courtrooms, the pouches prevent unauthorized recording/dissemination of sensitive courtroom proceedings, enhance decorum and professionalism within the courtroom and preserve the privacy of jurors, witnesses and victims, reducing the risk of intimidation and harassment, its site says.

“Cell phones are corrupting the courtroom, with surreptitious recording and witness intimidation on the rise. Yondr provides a more secure, focused and respectful environment for legal proceedings while preserving the justice system’s integrity,” it said.

Because domestic relations is housed in the Bernard C. Brominski Building family court building, Hindmarsh said accommodations will be made if visitors must temporarily access their devices to retrieve required data, such as confirmation of a payment.



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