My blog post yesterday “Top Family Law Items to Watch in 2013” included the item “modernization of court filing systems.” Coincidentally, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice recently issued a timely protocol on the use of electronic devices in courtrooms. It will take effect on February 1, 2013.
Once upon a time, merely taking out a BlackBerry while court was in session was frowned upon, even if counsels were actually using their Blackberries to check their available dates to schedule the next appearance. Now, with the proliferation of smart phones and tablet computers, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice is about to formally sanction the use of electronic devices in court without the explicit permission of the presiding judge.
The protocol allows only certain individuals (counsels, licensed paralegals, law students, law clerks assisting counsel, self-represented litigants, media and journalists) to use their devices, so long as certain conditions are met. (The general public will still have to obtain permission before using their devices.)
The allowed users must comply with the conditions, including:
- The user must observe any restrictions on publication (i.e., publication bans).
- Only counsels, self-represented litigants, media and journalists are allowed to make audio recordings and only for the purposes of taking notes. The recordings cannot be distributed.
- No one is allowed to take photographs or make video recordings with their devices unless the court has granted explicit permission.
- No one is allowed to talk on the device, including using dictation functions.
- The device must be used in silent mode, in a discreet and unobstructive manner.
- The device cannot interfere with the court functions (i.e., court reporter and administration staff’s duties).
If anyone is in breach of the protocol, the offender may be asked to turn off the device, to leave the device outside the courtroom, to leave the courtroom, or to abide by any other order the presiding judge may make. The offender may even be cited for contempt and sent to jail.
For the complete terms and conditions, please visit the website of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
This blog is provided for educational purposes and for your reference. It is not intended as legal advice and should not be regarded as such. The protocol may have changed or cancelled since the publication of this article.