New Jersey Supreme Court Guidelines on Electronic Devices in the Courtroom to Take Effect on February 2, 2015, Executed Agreement Required for Use of Mobile Devices in Courtroom.
On December 12, 2014, the New Jersey Supreme Court promulgated Directive 8-14, “Supreme Court Guidelines on Electronic Devices in the Courtroom,” (“Guidelines”). The Guidelines which will take effect on February 2, 2015, apply to proceedings in the New Jersey Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Superior Court, Tax Court, and Municipal Court. The Guidelines acknowledge the pervasive use of new mobile technology by both journalists and the general public “used to capture news, photographs and/or video,” and are aimed at allowing the use of these devices while ensuring “fairness to litigants,” avoiding negative impacts to court proceedings and maintaining “court decorum.”
Under the new Guidelines, electronic devices may be used in the common areas of the courthouse, however, prior to using electronic devices within the courtroom itself, an individual must submit to the applicable court an executed “Agreement for Use of Electronic Devices,” which will remain valid for one year. A copy of the executed Agreement signed and dated by the trial court administrator or the court clerk will be returned to the individual who must keep it in their possession at all times while in the courtroom so that it may be produced for examination by the court if requested.
When a valid Agreement has been executed, an individual may, “silently take notes and/or transcribe and receive communications and information, without obtaining prior authorization from the court.” Individuals who violate the Agreement are subject to sanctions which may include, but are not limited to, contempt of court.
Individuals who wish to “photograph, electronically record, broadcast and/or transmit a court proceeding,” must both have an executed Agreement in place and apply to the court in writing for permission to do so. The court will approve these requests within 24 hours or as soon as is practicable. An appeals process is established to address denied requests. The Guidelines also set up a number of prohibitions in this area, including barring the recording of crime victims less than 18 years of age, as well as witnesses under 14, without prior approval of the court. While still photographs and silent video of conversations between attorneys and clients are allowed, sound recording or transmissions are prohibited. Side bars with the judge can only be captured in still photographs and “photographs, electronic recordings or broadcasts of a jury” are forbidden.
The Guidelines also establish pooling capability requirements so that anyone who gets the court’s permission to “photograph, electronically record, broadcast and/or transmit” must pool their capabilities through the sharing of video/audio signals and photographs when requested.
The Guidelines also address how the recording and broadcasting is allowed to be done and stipulates that “no electronic device that produces distracting sound or light” can be used to cover judicial proceedings. The Guidelines also note where the equipment can be placed and prohibits individual doing the recording or broadcasting from about around the courtroom.