Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Manitoba courts need "handheld device" policy!

Good Day Readers:

Recently we witnessed a courtroom sheriff request an individual in the public gallery to turn off their handheld device while reporters at the same trial continued to text, email or twitter - whatever it is they do. During a break in the proceedings we decided to have a chat with the person. Turns out they were related to one of the families and felt they had been singled out and treated unfairly. They even showed us a sign (bilingual) posted beside the second set of elevators on the first floor at the foot of the steps leading to the 100 Block of courtrooms:

Camera and cellphone use in the Law Courts Complex
Cameras, including cell phones, may not be used anywhere within the Law Courts Complex. Failure to comply may result in your removal from the building.

Now that we're well into the iphone and smartphone generation is this not obsolete? Is there an even larger issue - who in a public gallery should be allowed to operate these devices and when? Should their use be restricted and if so to whom?

In our posting, Responsible courtroom tweeting 101! (February 14, 2012) we reproduced an article from a recent issue of The Lawyers Weekly which documented the struggles The Canadian Judicial Council is currently having developing a universal policy for handheld devices so people don't walk into one courtroom to be told they must be tuned off while another judge allows their use. Courthouse staff, such as sheriffs, are placed in a difficult position because they are forced to operate in a grey, grey area which lacks policy and, therefore, clarity.

We are sending a copy of this posting to a Manitoba Law Courts administrator and invite them to reply anonymously or otherwise. Any response received will be published.

Clare L. Pieuk


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