Court Leader’s Advantage Podcast: February 2020 Episode

For better or worse we can no longer live without our Smartphones.  We use them to talk and text our friends; they keep our appointments, pictures, and business notes; they help us with research; they track of our children; they allow us to call 911 in an emergency.  It’s a wonder how we ever lived without them, yet they have been here a mere 13 years, arriving in 2007.

Smartphones have become a part of court process.  They carry messages, photos, and information that are evidence in court hearings and trials.  Yet, many courts forbid people from even having them in the courthouse.  Must courts accept that Smartphones are everywhere? Is there a middle ground that can be reached?

Judge Cynthia Cohen, Retired Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Appeals Court, Jeffrey Morrow, Director of Security for the Massachusetts Trial Courts.  And TJ BeMent, District Court Administrator for the 10th Judicial Administrative District in Athens, Georgia share their insights and conclusions about this critical issue.

This is an interesting podcast episode for listeners curious about Smartphones, courtroom security, self-represented defendants, courts, and court administration.

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About the Speakers

Cynthia J. Cohen is a retired Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Appeals Court, where she served from March, 2001 until January, 2017. Since her retirement, she has volunteered as an Access to Justice Fellow, working on special projects for the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission. While on the Appeals Court, Justice Cohen was a Commissioner on the second Access to Justice Commission.

She also chaired the SJC Steering Committee on Self-Represented Litigants, which, over a seven-year period, developed a number of court system initiatives to address the needs of litigants without counsel, including Limited Assistance Representation, judicial guidelines for hearings involving self-represented litigants, and training programs for judges and court staff. Prior to going on the bench, Justice Cohen was a civil litigator whose practice emphasized tort, insurance, and appellate matters.

Jeffrey P. Morrow has been the Massachusetts Trial Court Director of Security since September 2013.  In this capacity Director Morrow is responsible for the management of security operations in the Commonwealth’s 100 courthouses and for oversight of over 1,000 court officers and security staff. Prior to his appointment as the security director, Mr. Morrow served as a special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service for over thirty-one years where his assignments included both executive and field assignments in the areas of criminal investigations and national security matters.

As the Director of Security for the Trial Court, Director Morrow has focused on the modernization of the Security Department and developing the department and its staff to have the capabilities necessary to protect the judiciary, court staff, and court users from today’s court security threats. Since 2013 he has placed a priority on the reform of the court officer hiring, promotion, and training processes, as well as the improvement of courthouse security practices through implementation of community accepted best-practices. As evidence of this effort, the Massachusetts Trial Court Officer Academy, established in 2014, received national accreditation through the Commission on the Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) in July 2016.

Director Morrow is a graduate of St. Anselm College in Manchester, NH and holds a Master of Policy Management degree from the McCord School of Public Policy at Georgetown University.

Tracy “T.J.” BeMent is the District Court Administrator for the 10th Judicial Administrative District of Georgia. The 10th JAD covers the general jurisdiction superior courts in six circuits in 21 counties. He was previously the Court Administrator for the Athens-Clarke County Courts in Athens, Georgia, where he worked with all six levels of trial courts in the county. He acts as the primary liaison to the state and county governments and serves as a resource for the judges and judicial staff on many issues. Mr. BeMent administers nearly $2 mill

ion in state and federal grants and is a federal grant peer reviewer. He has been working in the courts for more than 15 years. Prior to coming to Georgia, he was the Assistant Court Administrator for the Las Vegas Justice Court and previously the Clerk of Court and Chief Administrative Officer of the District of Columbia’s Office of Administrative Hearings. He received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the George Washington University in Washington, DC, and completed his ICM Fellowship in spring 2015.

Do You Want to Learn More?

The Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission Report

NACM Resolution Number 4 on Cell Phones and Courts

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