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No more storage lockers at Cook County courts starting Monday

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

Starting Monday, visitors to Cook County courthouses will no longer be able to use storage lockers for cellphones and other items banned from courtrooms.

Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans announced the decision last month after Cook County facilities management officials said the lockers had to be removed “due to security and staffing concerns,” according to a statement from Evans’ office.

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 the locker arrangement would need to end because of concerns for the safety of staff, none of whom are security personnel, Shuftan said.

The loss of the lockers presents a new inconvenience for courthouse visitors, who were banned three years ago from bringing in cellphones. Evans has explained that he implemented the ban because of reports of people shooting pictures and video during court proceedings 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.