Yesterday, I visited the Wilson County Justice Center in Lebanon, Tennessee on behalf of a client. Upon approach, we noticed four different signs announcing cell phones or other recording devices were banned from the building. Note, it was not just the courtroom, but the entire building. As we approached security, the guards politely asked if we had cell phones on us. Fortunately, they were in the car but the computer in my bag raised an eyebrow. I flashed my all-access-I’m-an-attorney bar card and all was well (attorneys, employees and a few others are exempted from the ban).
Suspecting a good story behind the heavily advertised ban, I asked the ladies in the clerk’s office what prompted the zero tolerance policy. Apparently, in at least one instance, spectators in the courtroom texted witnesses waiting outside what the witness on the stand said. On top of that, judges did not like spectators taking pictures of the proceedings or of the judge personally. I imagined a witness snapping a quick selfie with the judge in the background and Aunt Lelia snapping a picture of cousin Jack’s latest arraignment to share instantly with Mama and ’em or possibly on facebook.
A judge may make rules for her or his court. Failure to follow those rules could result in contempt of court which could carry a fine or jail time. See our article on pajamas in the courtroom or other cell phone-related contempt of court rules for Circuit Court in Davidson County, Nashville, Tennessee. To be safe, you should always check local rules for your court to ensure you follow the rules perfectly. A quick internet search on your phone could help you keep that phone.
According to this article, a violator is subject to a 10-day jail sentence and/or forfeiture of their cell phone. And, as the cell phone is also a status symbol, some of them can be pretty costly (some iPhones retail in excess of $800+). That is a pretty heavy investment to simply be locked away in a vault.
The moral of this story is simply don’t bring your cell phone or recording device into the Wilson County Justice Center in Lebanon, Tennessee. The justice there is swift, the folks there are friendly but they take the cell phone ban seriously… and so should you.
You know it is coming, or at least you should. You were involved in a lawsuit but thankfully, you reached a signed settlement agreement that dictated what each party would do to resolve the litigation permanently. But…. time passed and you didn’t do some or any of the things you agreed to do. Why? That’s not the point now. What matters is you have been served with a Petition for Civil Contempt of Court and it is time to deal with the repercussions of your delay.
What do you do now? Do what you agreed to do in the settlement agreement – and do it quickly! Sheer refusal or lame excuses will not go well with the court. Assuming you knew you had a duty to perform (you did sign the agreement) and you have the current ability to perform the task, your refusal or failure to perform under the settlement agreement can carry civil or criminal penalties. Yes. You. Jail. Not only could you get a dressing down by the Judge, you may also get a few days behind bars to think it over and “purge yourself of contempt”. In other words, you may not get out of jail until you perform under the settlement agreement. In fact, we are familiar with one local case where a former spouse failed to pay alimony under a Marital Dissolution Agreement (the settlement agreement) and was “housed” by the court for over two months until he made a substantial down payment on the overdue alimony.
If you have legitimate reasons for failing to perform – you can’t sell the house because it was destroyed by a tornado or you can’t deliver 10,000 widgets as agreed because a widget blight destroyed the entire international widget crop – then you have some room to work with here. Your attorney can confer with opposing counsel to determine if substitute action will suffice or perhaps all parties could modify the settlement agreement to reflect the substantial change of circumstances.
So, either way, it is time to act. Doing so will save you time, expense and anxiety over the case. Do what you need to do, get it behind you and move on with life.
Peace of mind is priceless.
If you are reading this, you likely have an upcoming court date and aren’t sure how things work – including what to wear.
Different courts have different rules, but across the board, it is important to dress appropriately and in a way that indicates your respect for the court. If you are not attired properly, the bailiff (the court officer) could ask you to leave the courtroom until you have corrected your clothing issue. For example, in most courts, you are not allowed to wear hats, halter tops, midriff shirts, untucked shirts, low hanging pants or other attire that shows too much skin or is otherwise too casual for the courtroom.
A Clerk of Court in Pennsylvania recently had signs posted in the court room indicating that pajamas are not appropriate court attire. Really! Pajamas! You would think that would be an obvious “what not to wear” but clearly, in that courtroom, it had happened one too many times.
So, what do you wear? A suit is nice. But if you wear one or not, always be tidy and presentable. Men can safely dress in slacks and a button down shirt. Ladies can wear the same or a skirt (make sure it is knee length or just above – no mini-skirts, please) and low-heeled shoes.
Again, the overall tone is to show the court respect both by your actions and your attire. Just keep the pajamas at home and you should be fine.
See the no-pajama article by clicking here.