New cell policy for courtrooms

Thursday, November 10, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 9:57 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Boone and Callaway county courtrooms will become a little quieter after a decision Tuesday by 13th Circuit Court judges to order cell phones turned off and beepers silenced in courtrooms.

The judges approved an order drafted by Judge Ellen S. Roper that requires anyone who enters a courtroom in the Boone or Callaway county courthouses to turn their cell phones off and have pagers on vibrate. The order was drafted after a panel of four judges­­ — Jodie Asel, Christine Carpenter, Joe Holt and Roper— came up with the solution to what judges say is an increasing problem.

“Cell phones seem to be going off an awful lot, and it just disrupts the proceedings,” said presiding Judge Gene Hamilton.

Judge Gary Oxenhandler was the only 13th Circuit Court judge to vote against the rule. While he agreed that cell phones are disruptive to court proceedings, he said attorneys should be given some leeway.

“(Lawyers) are there for the business of the court,” Oxenhandler said. “Seldom do I have a cell phone problem with an attorney.”

Judge Christine Carpenter said judges were also concerned that cell phones could be used to take photographs in courtrooms, which is prohibited by Missouri Supreme Court rules. She said a spectator at the Ryan Ferguson trial was caught by a court marshall taking a photograph of Ferguson with a cell phone.

With the new order, marshalls will confiscate any cell phone that is turned on or any pager that is not on vibrate, Hamilton said.

Carpenter said there is no rule about the process of confiscation, so one judge may follow a different procedure than another.

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