Court visitors will soon lose lockers to store cellphones

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Signs posted near the storage lockers at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse. Starting April 2, the lockers will no longer be available for the public to store their cellphones and other banned items / Rummana Hussain for the Sun-Times

Three years ago, the public was banned from bringing cell phones into Cook County courthouses.

Soon, they’ll be inconvenienced a bit more.

Starting April 2, storage lockers that were installed for the cellphones and other items banned from courtrooms will no longer be available, county officials said.

“Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans was notified by the Cook County Department of Facilities Management that, due to security and staffing concerns, it will remove all storage lockers that it had installed at courthouses as a service for the public to safely store banned items while they conduct court business,” a news release issued by Evans Friday said.

Frank Shuftan, a spokesman for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, pointed out that Facilities Management staff “had to manage these lockers for the past year as a ‘temporary’ measure when a vendor who had been managing them abruptly stopped doing so.”

Officials were informed in February that this arrangement would need to end because of concerns for the safety of staff, none of whom are security personnel, Shuftan said.

Evans has explained that he implemented the cellphone ban because of reports of people shooting pictures and video during court proceeding at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse.

He also has cited phones ringing during testimony and use of the devices to text testimony to other witnesses as justification for the ban.

Many of those who come to the courthouse, at 26th and California, use public transportation. They have no place to keep their cellphones, so they’ve been storing them for free in the lockers.

Some people are exempted from the cellphone ban, including current or former judges, licensed attorneys, reporters, government employees, anyone reporting for jury duty and people with disabilities who require electronic devices to communicate and those with order of protections.

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