Columns

Hosey: Celebrating historic cellphone liberation

So long as nothing changes, a landmark victory in the battle for equality will be achieved Monday.

On that day, regular people will finally be free to take their cellphones with them into the Will County Courthouse and not have to leave them in their cars or hide them in the bushes if they didn’t realize they weren’t allowed and had to hustle up to a court hearing.

Before Monday, only the relatively special among us were permitted to carry a cellphone into the courthouse. The privilege extended to people like lawyers and judges. Also to clerks and stenographers, and to cops and well, pretty much anybody who worked at the courthouse, not to mention newspaper reporters.

Beyond that, no one could be trusted with a cellphone in Joliet’s halls of justice. Except it wasn’t ever really about the phones. It was about the cameras that are in cellphones these days. And even though you can have your camera phone in the courthouse now, the local judiciary doesn’t want you going around snapping pictures. As Chief Judge Dan Kennedy, who struck this blow for equality, put it in his administrative order, the “taking of photographs, and audio and video recordings in all areas of Court Facilities are prohibited without prior approval of the Chief Judge/Trial Court Administrator.”

Sign for Will County Courthouse, 100 W. Jefferson St., Joliet.

None of that sounds unreasonable. After all, you should have better things to do than hang around the courthouse making cellphone videos. Not even the special people who got to take their phones in before Monday were supposed to be doing that, and they’re still not, which isn’t to say they don’t have it better than regular people.

Sure, you can take your cellphone into the courthouse starting Monday, and even talk on it in “common areas of Court Facilities, such as lobbies and hallways,” but don’t think you’ll be on the same footing as the special people if you run afoul of the law. No, when you’re a regular person you will have a regular prosecutor trying your case, and good luck with that.

When you’re special, on the other hand, odds are Will County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow will come up with a reason for why he has to turn the matter over to a special prosecutor. Once that happens, your legal outlook improves significantly, at least it’s seemed to work that way for years now.

Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow.

There might even be video of you floating around out there — not video shot inside the courthouse of course —that shows you assaulting a man who seems to be doing nothing more than walking down Jefferson Street. The average guy might see some trouble over that. But if you’re special enough for a special prosecutor, you should have nothing to worry about.

But enough of that. This special prosecutor problem is something for Chief Judge Dan Kennedy to figure out another time. For now, let’s just enjoy Monday’s leveling of the playing field.

This historic moment should be memorialized, perhaps with a holiday. Make Jan. 22 Cellphone Independence Day. Keep the kids home from school and if you’re special enough, take a day off yourself. You know the courthouse will be closed.

• Joe Hosey is the editor of The Herald-News. You can reach him at 815-280-4094, at jhosey@shawmedia.com or on Twitter @JoeHosey.

Joseph Hosey

Joseph Hosey

Joe Hosey became editor of The Herald-News in 2018. As a reporter, he covered the disappearance of Stacy Peterson and criminal investigation of her husband, former Bolingbrook police Sgt. Drew Peterson. He was the 2015 Illinois Journalist of the Year and 2014 National Press Club John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award winner.