Heather Isringhausen Gvillo Apr. 13, 2015, 4:53pm

After years of requiring the public to leave electronics in their car or in a locker before entering the courthouse, the Madison County Circuit Court is allowing jurors to bring recognizable electronics as well as food inside during their service.

Chief Judge David Hylla said he is collaborating with the Madison County Sheriff’s Department to reach a new system regarding electronic devices that makes the public feel more welcome while still maintaining security within the courthouse.

“I firmly feel that the people who come to court are the people who pay for the court,” Hylla said.

Hylla said jurors will be allowed to bring in tablets and phones, but if the courthouse’s security does not recognize a device, it will not be permitted inside. Food will also be allowed in the courthouse, but no drinks. Jurors may still use the vending machines to purchase beverages.

The newly allowed items will be permitted in the courthouse, but not the courtrooms. Hylla said he doesn’t want phones ringing during a trial and he doesn’t want jurors recording or talking on their phones during any proceedings. Jurors are also still forbidden from using their phones to look up details of the case they are called in for.

In an effort to maintain order, Hylla said bailiffs will take the electronic devices from jurors when they enter the courtroom and will return the items when jurors leave the courtroom for breaks.

Referring to the rules, Hylla said that “if the sheriff and the judges wouldn’t have to worry about a few bad apples, all this stuff wouldn’t have to happen.”

Hylla said they are still working out the details, but he anticipates that jurors will not be able to bring these items in on the first day they report for jury duty. However, every day thereafter, their jury badge will act as a pass for the electronic devices.

Hylla added that allowing jurors to bring their electronics inside the courthouse with them is a “pilot project.” He hopes to one day extend the courtesy to the general public.

“We are moving in that direction,” he said. “We want to make this a user-friendly place to be.”

However, before the electronic restraints are relaxed, Hylla said they are still working through security questions. He explained that it would take a lot of manpower to ensure that people are following the rules and aren’t recording court proceedings.

“That probably takes more manpower than what we have right now,” he said.

Since implementing the new system, Hylla said jurors have been able to bring in electronic devices a few times this year. The move hasn’t garnered many nods of approval, but he said there have been far fewer complaints over the inconvenience of jury duty.

“It’s more or less a lack of complaints than an avalanche of compliments,” he said.

However, he attributed that to the possibility that most jurors probably already assumed they were able to bring their electronic devices in the courthouse, especially those who haven’t served on a jury in many years.

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