Ga. judges crack down on smart phones in the courtroom

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Ga. judges crack down on smart phones in the courtroom

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New rules will prohibit smart phone use in state courtrooms without advance permission from the judge. KENT D. JOHNSON /KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM

A council of Georgia judges approved a new rule this week that may make what goes on in their courtroom less transparent to those outside.

The rule, known as Rule 22, governs recording and broadcasting of trials and has generally been used by professional journalists looking to get permission for photographers or television cameras to record the proceedings. Fears of intrusion from smart phones prompted the Council of Superior Court Judges of Georgia to approve a rewrite of the rule banning cell phones and setting up a new procedure for journalists.

The new rule also requires judges to inform all parties when a request for still photography or broadcast coverage has been made. Lawyers must then inform their clients, witnesses and alleged victims, soliciting objections from all parties. If someone does object or the judge intends to deny the request or part of it, the judge must call a hearing and rule on the request based on a laundry list of considerations, including the consent of everyone involved.

The rewrite has prompted concerns from government transparency advocates that courts will be less open as a result. The council heard those concerns but approved the rule anyway at a judicial conference this week on St. Simons Island.

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