Silence is Golden

For years, several Michigan courts have banned non-lawyers from bringing cell phones and other portable electronic devices into courthouses. Historically, each court would set its own policies governing the use and access to such devices, and my personal experience confirms that court policies are widely varied and not always consistently enforced.

That all changed on January 8, 2020, when the Michigan Supreme Court issued a statewide order effectively prohibiting state courts from banning cell phones. The rule is intended to broaden the ability of litigants – including those who are self-represented – to use devices in support of their cases. Under the new rule:

  • A portable electronic device may be used “in a courtroom to retrieve or to store information (including notetaking), to access the Internet, and to send and receive text messages or information.”
  • A portable electronic device may be used to “reproduce public court documents in a clerk’s office as long as the device leaves no mark or impression on the document and does not unreasonably interfere with the operation of the clerk’s office.”
  • The devices must be on “silent mode” when in the courtroom and “may not be used, without permission of the court, to make or to receive telephone calls or for any other audible function while court is in session.”
  • Judges maintain discretion to “terminate activity that is disruptive or distracting to a court proceeding.”

The new rule takes effect on May 1, 2020. If you have questions or would like to learn more, you can visit the websites for Michigan Courts.