Cell Phone and Electronic Communication Device Ban

Frequently Asked Questions

Are all courthouses under the ban?

At this time the ban is in effect only at the Hon. George N. Leighton Criminal Court Building at 2600 South California Avenue in Chicago.

The ban is currently not in effect at the following courthouses:

The Cook County Juvenile Center, 1100 S. Hamilton Ave., Chicago

The Domestic Violence Courthouse, 555 West Harrison St., Chicago

The Second Municipal District Skokie Courthouse, 5600 Old Orchard Road

The Third Municipal District Rolling Meadows Courthouse, 2121 Euclid Road

The Fourth Municipal District Maywood Courthouse, 1500 Maybrook Drive

The Fifth Municipal District Bridgeview Courthouse, 10220 S. 76th Ave.

The Sixth Municipal District Markham Courthouse, 16501 S. Kedzie Parkway

5555 W. Grand Ave., Chicago (First Municipal District criminal branches 23 and 50)

727 E. 111th St., Chicago (First Municipal District criminal branches 35 and 38)

3150 W. Flournoy St., Chicago (First Municipal District criminal branches 43 and 44)

The Richard J. Daley Center Courthouse located at 50 W. Washington St. in Chicago, Illinois, is permanently exempted from the ban because no criminal cases are heard there.  However, persons may use cell phones and other electronic devices only in the public areas away from the courtrooms.

Which devices are banned?

Banned devices include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Cell phones
  • Smartphones
  • Laptop computers
  • Tablet computers
  • All other electronic devices capable of connecting to the Internet or making audio or video recordings.

I have been called for jury duty. Does the ban apply to me? Or are some people exempted from the ban?

Jurors are allowed to bring cell phones and electronic devices into any Circuit Court of Cook County court facility. Please have your summons available at the court facility’s security checkpoint to verify your jury service. If you have misplaced your summons, please call (773) 674-3129 between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at least one business day prior to your service date to have a replacement summons faxed or e-mailed to you.  Cell phones and electronic devices may be used only in the jury assembly room and in areas away from the courtrooms.  

The complete list of exemptions follows:

1.    persons with disabilities, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act, whose disabilities necessitate the use of an electronic device to communicate and who are permitted by the Court Disability Coordinator or court order to possess and use such devices in the court facility, including the courtrooms;

2.      current or former judges;

3.      licensed attorneys;

4.      authorized employees of attorneys;

5.      members of the news media.  Upon approval by the Illinois Supreme Court of the Circuit Court of Cook County’s application to participate in extended media coverage, approval by the trial judge presiding, and subject to denial or limitation by the chief circuit judge, pursuant to the Illinois Supreme Court=s Policy for Extended Media Coverage in the Circuit Courts of Illinois, Ill. S. Ct., M.R. 2634 (eff. Jan. 24, 2012), members of the news media may also use their electronic devices in the courtroom to communicate with news media colleagues, provided court is not in session.

6.      local, state, and federal law enforcement officers;

7.      employees of any local, state, or federal government agencies and/or offices;

8.      any person reporting for jury duty pursuant to summons.  Individuals selected for jury service are also subject to the order(s) of the trial judge presiding, who may make orders as to the possession or use of electronic devices by potential or sworn jurors during trial sessions and deliberations.

9.      building and maintenance tradespeople, equipment repair persons, and vendors with proper authorization for whom such devices are necessary in the performance of their job;

10.  domestic violence advocates or counselors as defined by 750 ILCS 60/227(a)(2);

11.  persons who are present at the court facility to obtain civil orders of protection as defined in Part 22 of the Rules of the Circuit Court of Cook County or to attend court proceedings related to the incident(s) underlying the order of protection or other proceedings;

12.  participants in a domestic violence assistance program, as defined and identified by the Presiding Judge of the Domestic Violence Division;

13.  persons required by court order or the sheriff to wear an electronic monitoring device;

14.  parties to orders of protection, as defined in Part 22 of the Rules of the Circuit Court of Cook County, who are furnished with or required to carry global positioning (GPS) devices;

15.  any other person or category of persons authorized by order of court to possess an electronic device as defined above in the court facility.

The persons described above must have proper identification and be on official business in the courthouse.  Social visits and business for the purpose of addressing one's own private, personal interests are not considered to be official business.  They may use the telephone, SMS (short message service) texting, instant messaging, email, and word processing functions of a cell phone or other electronic device only in the public areas of the courthouse outside the courtrooms. These electronic devices must remain off when in courtrooms, unless otherwise expressly permitted by the judge presiding. 

Why is a ban necessary?

The ban was imposed in response to reports that persons were misusing cell phones by photographing witnesses and jurors in courtrooms where criminal cases are heard and in public areas of the courthouse, texting testimony to witnesses outside the courtroom who were waiting to testify, as well as live streaming court proceedings. 

Circuit Court of Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans explained in a statement:

“The court is sending a strong message that any attempts to intimidate witnesses, jurors, and judges in court will not be permitted. This ban is important to uphold our justice system and the safety of our courts.  Intimidation will not be tolerated.  Personal recording devices and cameras are not permitted in Illinois courtrooms.

“Of course the judges and I understand the ban presents an inconvenience for the public. I wish it were possible to just say to the people coming to court, “Please turn off your phones and devices.” The simple fact is we have tried that, and it does not work. People either ignore or refuse to comply with the judges’ directions; and the Sheriff’s staff has confirmed that their deputies cannot prevent the misuse of these devices in the courtrooms.

“It always must be remembered that a criminal case is a serious, solemn proceeding. A defendant’s liberty, or even life, is at stake. Often victims of crimes are in court. There should be no interruption of testimony by ringing phones and no texting of testimony to witnesses waiting to testify. Most important, no juror or witness should ever be afraid because a defendant’s supporters are taking their pictures.”

Do other courts ban cell phones from the courthouse?

The Circuit Court of Cook County is not alone in banning cell phones and electronic communications devices from the courthouse.  In Illinois, 48 counties out of 102 have similar bans, as well as state and federal courts throughout the country.

What happens if someone is caught with a cell phone in the Leighton Criminal Court Building?

If you violate the ban you may be subject to prosecution for contempt of court.  Your cell phone or electronic device may be confiscated and you could face a fine or be put in jail.

Will there be any place in the Leighton Criminal Court Building where I can leave my cell phone if I do bring it?

Free storage for the public is available in the lobby of the Leighton Criminal Court Building. Persons coming to the Leighton Criminal Court Building are strongly encouraged to leave smartphones and all electronic communications and Internet devices at home to avoid delays at the courthouse security checkpoint. 

What will I do if I need to make a phone call?

There are public phones located on the first floor of the Leighton Criminal Court Building.  There are also TTY phones for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Copyright 2020 by Circuit Court of Cook County