EBENSBURG – Cameras, cellphones and other personal electronic devices will soon be prohibited from certain areas of Cambria County facilities.
According to an order signed Wednesday by President Judge Norman Krumenacker III, the policy will be effective June 1 and will prohibit recording devices of all kinds from domestic relations, district magistrate offices, the second and third floors of the courthouse and all areas of the Central Park Complex after the security checkpoint.
“Although photography and video recording is already prohibited from courtrooms and during court proceedings, the small size of current personal electronic devices makes it challenging to enforce those rules,” Krumenacker said.
“This policy is intended to deter and prevent the disruption of court proceedings by electronic devices, (to) prevent the recording of security procedures, and to eliminate the potential for intimidation of witnesses and other participants in court proceedings through the use of such devices to photograph or record these individuals.”
Krumenacker’s order says the policy was created “in the interest of safety and security.”
“The proliferation of mobile personal electronic devices has resulted in a rise in safety and security concerns in the courtrooms and public areas adjacent to the courtrooms,” Krumenacker wrote.
“In the past several years, incidents have occurred where photographs and video and audio recordings were made during court proceedings in violation of existing rules. In addition, there is an increase in the occurrence of disruptions caused by cellular phones and other devices ringing during court proceedings.”
All members of the public entering one of the county facilities covered by the policy who have not received permission in advance to bring in an electronic device “must surrender their cellular phone or personal electronic device to the sheriff’s officers at the entrance to the court facility to be placed in a secured locker or return the cellular phone or personal electronic device to their vehicle,” the policy states.
The policy applies to all mobile devices, including cellphones, smartphones, cameras, camera-equipped devices, all devices capable of video and/or audio recording, laptop computers, computer tablets, all devices capable of connecting to the internet, all devices capable of sending or receiving SMS or MMS messages and all devices capable of making or receiving phone calls or other two-way communications.
Those exempt from the policy include attorneys and law enforcement on official business, Cambria County and court employees while at work and credentialed members of the media.
Court staff and court security officers may confiscate and search cellular phones being used in violation of the policy and, in addition, violators may be subject to a $25 fine, removal from the courtroom, loss of privilege to bring personal electronic devices into court facilities, contempt proceedings and expulsion from the court facility.
“In addition, a presiding judge may permit the use of photography and recording devices during any court proceeding as permitted by law or ceremonial functions such as adoptions, weddings, naturalization proceedings and investiture proceedings,” the policy says.
“Permission to use these devices must be obtained in advance of the proceeding or ceremony.”
Cambria County’s court administrator will post notices outlining the policy at all affected facilities in the following weeks.