Witness intimidation prompts Philly courts to ban cellphones

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Philadelphia court officials are banning cellphone use by most people in the courthouse in an effort to curb witness intimidation.

The First Judicial District says that members of the public entering the courthouse in downtown Philadelphia will be required to turn off their devices and put them in a lockable pouch distributed by the sheriff’s office. The owners will keep their devices with them but wonát be able to use them to take photos or videos, send text messages or talk on the phone.

The sheriffás office will unlock the pouches as people leave.

The restrictions take effect April 3 but wonát apply to court staff, lawyers, law enforcement and media members, among others.

A news release issued Thursday says the cellphone ban is an effort to “deter, if not eliminate, intimidation of witnesses and courtroom disruptions.”