Cell phone users should take it outside

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By Cindy DiFazio

Let me say first (to paraphrase the ultimate authority) “let she who is without sin cast the first iPhone.”

So, in the interest of full disclosure I’ll admit I have forgotten to turn off my cell phone in public venues. I’ve been embarrassed a few times when the strains of “Incense and Peppermints” emit from my handbag.

But, it was an oversight.

Generally, while in my official capacity of reporting on government and school board meetings, court proceedings or while conducting interviews my phone isn’t just silenced, it’s off.

That’s the rule, right?

I believe that requirement is inviolate, especially during court proceedings where respect for and deference to authority are mandated. Henry County sheriff’s deputy Rick Nelson relieves people in the courtroom of their phones for the tiniest of infractions, and lately the number of incidents seems to have declined.

Then, last week cell phone hell broke loose during circuit court.
First a cell phone alarm rang out repeatedly in the courtroom. Then I spotted several individuals blatantly conversing over the air waves.

Who were these people disregarding courtroom protocol? They were attorneys.

At one point the judge asked whose phone was in use, and a prosecutor hastily ducked out of the room with a cell phone to her ear when she thought the judge was singling her out. Judge Karen Conrad thought the noise was once again coming from a defense attorney’s phone that had repeatedly jingled a reminder that it was time to pick up the kids (she was pleading a case at the bench).

This time it wasn’t her phone and it wasn’t the prosecutor who had been standing at the prosecutor’s table. It was yet another defense attorney who had just entered the courtroom.

All told, two out of three attorneys on the side of the prosecution and at least half of the defense lawyers were on their phones at some point in open court.

It was like being on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Okay, I exaggerate and I’m sure some of the conversations were on court-related business.  So take the phone into private chambers or out into the hall. Then there would be no need for furtive glances at the judge or whispered conversations.

The judge herself uses the desk phone when she needs to make a case-related call.  I can’t picture her holding a designer rectangle up to her head while seated at the bench.

By the time she inquired whose phone she was hearing she decided it was time to make an example of someone and confiscated that defense attorney’s phone. It was just her final straw.

Here’s mine.

That same day in court, when a young mother started to lose her battle to keep a talkative infant quiet in the gallery, each and every one of the cell phone offenders looked at her as if the child was the only distraction in that room.

She courteously took the baby out into the hall.

I would have appreciated it if the lawyers would have done the same with their phones.