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Judge Issues Contempt Finding and Fine -- Against Himself -- Over Cellphone Disruption

Here's a reminder that judges aren't above the rules of courtroom decorum -- or immune from embarrassing technological snafus. Michigan Judge Raymond Voet held himself in contempt on Friday and paid a $25 fine after his new smartphone made its presence known during a jury trial in his courtroom.

As the prosecutor made his closing arguments, Voet's phone started asking for voice commands. "I'm guessing I bumped it. It started talking really loud, saying 'I can't understand you. Say something like Mom,'" Voet said, according to the Ionia County, Mich., Sentinel Standard. "My face got as red as a beet."

Voet is a stickler when it comes to disturbances of this type, and has a posted policy in his courtroom warning that disruptions caused by electronic devices will result in the confiscation of the items, a contempt of court finding and a $25 fine. The Associated Press reports that Voet has enforced the rule against police officers, attorneys, witnesses, spectators and friends over the years -- and now he can add himself to the list. He paid the fine during a trial recess.

"Judges are humans," Voet said. "They're not above the rules. I broke the rule and I have to live by it."

The incident also goes to show that humans sometimes have difficulty adjusting to different forms of technology. Voet was a longtime BlackBerry user and had recently switched to a Windows-based phone -- hence his confusion over the touchscreen and voice commands. "That's an excuse, but I don't take those excuses from anyone else," he said.

We're guessing that in order to avoid becoming a repeat offender -- and making more national news -- the judge may have spent part of the weekend studying the manual for his new cellphone.

Posted by Laurel Newby on April 15, 2013 at 03:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

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