Cellphone lockers to return to Leighton Criminal Court Building

Released On 04/08/2016

Visitors to the Leighton Criminal Court Building will once again be able to store their cellphones in lockers starting on Monday.


Chief Cook County Circuit Judge Timothy C. Evans announced the news today after he requested a meeting and reached an afternoon agreement with the Cook County Sheriff’s Office and the Cook County Department of Facilities Management, which reports to the County Board President.


“I am very pleased to report that the President, Sheriff and my office were able to work collaboratively to reach this agreement,” Chief Judge Evans said. “Our plan going forward promotes both public safety and public convenience in the courthouse.”


Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle also applauded the deal.


“We are pleased to have reached a resolution on this issue with the Office of the Chief Judge and the Sheriff. We are all interested in maintaining a safe atmosphere in our courthouses that does not impose hardships on those who come to court, and that allows our staff to perform their duties with a sense of security,” Preckwinkle said.


Sheriff Tom Dart said: “The return of the lockers is simply the right thing to do, and this is a great day for the thousands of courthouse patrons who require the use of their phones to go about their everyday lives. I’m thankful to the Chief Judge and President for their collaboration and very proud of my staff who spent all of this week providing emergency on-site support to courthouse visitors.”


Three years ago, Chief Judge Evans issued a ban on cellphones at Leighton after 19 judges reported varying levels of cellphone misuse in their courtrooms. Some individuals were illegally using their smartphones in courtrooms to take video and photographs.


These photos and recordings presented a serious threat to public safety because they potentially could be used to intimidate jurors, witnesses, police officers, defendants, attorneys and judges – and subject them to physical harm.  The illegal and unauthorized use of the smartphones also threatened the integrity and decorum of court proceedings.


The ban on cellphones remains in effect at Leighton, and courthouse visitors will be able to store their cellphones in lockers after they clear the security checkpoint.


The Department of Facilities Management removed the lockers on April 1 due to security concerns. Facilities Management reported that individuals were placing contraband in the lockers, putting the Facilities Management staff members at risk when staff members confronted the individuals.


To address that security concern, Chief Judge Evans recommended that the lockers be placed after the security checkpoint. The Sheriff’s Office agreed.


Previously, courthouse visitors placed their cellphones in lockers and then proceeded to the security checkpoint. The Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management expressed concern about that previous procedure of having the lockers before the security checkpoint because of the potential for somebody to be able to place an explosive device in a locker.


In addition, the Office of the Chief Judge will partner with the Department of the Facilities Management and the Sheriff in managing the lockers.


Chief Judge Evans will deploy his staff to manage the lockers from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. The Department of Facilities Management and the Sheriff’s Office will work together to manage the lockers on nights, weekends and holidays.


Previously, the Department of Facilities Management was the only entity managing the locker system since the cellphone ban was implemented. The department assumed the responsibility after a private vendor stopped providing the service.


The plan is being regarded as a short-term resolution until a Request for Proposal can be completed, and a private vendor can be hired to manage the locker system.

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