Judge holds self in contempt for his smartphone

IONIA, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan judge whose smartphone disrupted a hearing in his own courtroom has held himself in contempt and paid $25 for the infraction.

Judge Raymond Voet has a posted policy at Ionia County 64A District Court stating that electronic devices causing a disturbance during court sessions will result in the owner being cited with contempt, the Sentinel-Standard of Ionia and MLive.com reported.

On Friday afternoon, during a prosecutor’s closing argument as part of a jury trial, Voet’s new smartphone began to emit sounds requesting phone voice commands. Voet said he thinks he bumped the phone, and the embarrassment likely left his face red.

“I’m guessing I bumped it. It started talking really loud, saying ‘I can’t understand you. Say something like Mom,'” he said.

Voet has used a Blackberry mobile phone for years, and said he wasn’t as familiar with the operation of the new touchscreen, Windows-based phone.

“That’s an excuse, but I don’t take those excuses from anyone else. I set the bar high, because cellphones are a distraction and there is very serious business going on,” he said. “The courtroom is a special place in the community, and it needs more respect than that.”

Over the years, the judge whose court is about 110 miles northwest of Detroit has taken phones away from police officers, attorneys, witnesses, spectators and friends. During a break in the trial, Voet held himself in contempt, fined himself and paid the fine.

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

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