CLINTON – Possession and use of electronic and digital communications devices are now prohibited inside the Clinton County Courthouse.
The Clinton County Board of Supervisors voted 2-1 Monday to prohibit the possession and use of electronic and digital communication devices inside the courthouse. Supervisors Dan Srp and Jim Irwin Jr. voted in favor of the resolution; Supervisor Tom Determann opposed it.
The resolution says that people inside the courthouse who possess electronic or digital communications devices must return the devices to their vehicles or to another non-public place outside the complex or allow the device to be secured in a locker, if available, at the designated security entry.
The resolution is effective immediately.
Clinton County Sheriff Rick Lincoln said the change was suggested because of one person who continually comes into the courthouse and the new law center and uses a full video recorder. The person used a cell phone camera prior to obtaining the video recorder, Lincoln said.
“We’ve had many people come into my office wanting to file a complaint that they felt they were being harassed while they were just walking through trying to conduct their business or go over to a visitor’s kiosk to visit with a family member or someone in the jail, where the individual would stand there and try to record their conversation,” Lincoln said.
Clinton County Attorney Mike Wolf said juveniles enter and exit the courthouse for juvenile cases with sensitive issues. Children are in the courthouse for Child in Need of Assistance cases. They deserve the confidentiality that the law provides, Wolf said.
“We’re dealing with people that are literally shaking,” Wolf said. “Their hands are shaking, and so forth, from the fact that the unwanted recording that can occur and has occurred there. And how they’ve tried to escape or flee. And we shouldn’t have the public feel that they have an unsafe environment in which to conduct their court business.”
Lincoln said he was reluctant not to allow cell phones in the courthouse law center facility because cell phones are an everyday device for people. Taking their cell phones to their vehicles is inconvenient, especially for people who rode bicycles or buses to the site, Lincoln said.
“I had proposed that maybe we could buy a set of small lockers to temporarily set up where we would put the cell phone recording device into that locker, give the person the key, and then they could get it on their way back out,” Lincoln said.
“So that would limit the inconvenience to those folks. That was my big tripping point,” Lincoln said.
Determann asked if the county could simply prohibit videotaping rather than banning cell phones in the courthouse. He said he has been in courthouses in Scott County, Iowa and Whiteside County, Illinois, and the restriction is unpleasant for people.
Wolf said that banning the devices for security reasons is easier to defend legally than banning the use of them.