Councilman Smitherman calls for complete ban of cell phones in courthouse

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Cincinnati City Councilman Christopher Smitherman is proposing a ban on all cells inside the Hamilton County Courthouse.

Smitherman sent a letter to presiding Judge Kubicki asking the court to consider "...cell phones, i-Pads, Blackberry's, or any device that allows texting, or digital pictures be banned."

Smitherman says the ban would exempt courthouse personnel and sheriff's deputies who work in the courthouse.

The councilman's request is another step in his effort to stop black on black violence in Cincinnati.

"When the weather warms up the violence tends to escalate. I just want to make sure that no one is trying to undermine the judicial process," says Smitherman.

While cell phones are already banned within the individual courtrooms Smitherman wants to take it even further.

"Someone can snap your picture, not put any post but tell everyone that that's who you are. I think that's incredibly dangerous in a judicial system and I really hope the judges consider this," says Smitherman.

Banning cell phones from inside the entire courthouse would include the lobby and hallways. If anyone wanted to make a phone call they would have to step outside.

In his letter Smitherman wrote this: "...could help make it safer for witnesses to testify without fear or retaliation by the defendant."

An issue prosecutor's like Julie Wilson in Joe Deters' office usually has to deal with.

"We are always sensitive to witness concerns and if people are concerned about possible witness intimidation, their identity being known by other people," says Wilson.

Sheriff's deputies working at the Hamilton County Courthouse would not comment on camera but voiced concerns over how the ban would be regulated.

"You have to educate the public that there's been a change. Eventually people would catch on that you can't have these devices, you take them back to your car, you leave down here and come back and get them," says Smitherman.

Judge Kubicki tells FOX19 he wants more time to review the letter and speak with Councilman Smitherman before making any official comment.

Smitherman says he hopes the idea is discussed during the next joint session of the court.

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