The Supreme Court of South Carolina
RE: Electronic Devices in Courthouses
The use of Electronic Devices1 is an integral part of daily life for many people. While these devices enhance our work and personal lives, they frequently impose a distraction and can constitute a threat to the safety and security of our court facilities.
Accordingly, effective immediately, the use of Electronic Devices within South Carolina Judicial Branch courthouses statewide shall be limited to the following:2
A. Common Areas: Persons may possess and use Electronic Devices in the common areas of the courthouse, such as lobbies and hallways, subject to security screening through courthouse screening devices. "Common areas" does not include any counter or window, or immediately adjacent space, used by the Clerk of Court's office for conducting court business with the public, and the use of Electronic Devices in such areas is prohibited. The use of an Electronic Device to make audio and/or video telephone calls or the use of other audible features immediately outside courtrooms is prohibited to prevent disturbing proceedings. Additional restrictions, including limiting audible uses to certain designated areas in a courthouse, may be imposed as needed to maintain security and the orderly administration of justice. All Electronic Devices must be powered off or placed in "silent" mode at all times within a courthouse.
B. Courtrooms: Persons, including attorneys, law enforcement acting as prosecutors in summary court, self-represented litigants, parties, witnesses, victims, and victim advocates who are participating in a case may, with the express permission of the presiding judge, use an Electronic Device to either present evidence or other information related to a proceeding, or to conduct research as part of the presentation of the case. Except as provided below, any person may possess an Electronic Device in a courtroom; however, the use of any Electronic Devices in the courtroom is prohibited without express permission of the presiding judge. All Electronic Devices must be powered off or placed in "silent" mode at all times within a courtroom.
Absolute bans on the possession of an Electronic Device in courtrooms are not permitted. However, where a presiding judge determines the possession of Electronic Devices interferes with the orderly administration of justice or causes a threat to safety or security in a proceeding, the judge may prohibit Electronic Devices in that courtroom for that proceeding.
C. Virtual Proceedings: Persons participating in a court proceeding using Remote Communication Technology3 are subject to the provisions contained within this Order, except for an Electronic Device the person utilizes to participate in the remote proceedings.
D. Jurors: The July 20, 2009 Order titled Re: Juror use of Personal Communication Devices4 remains in force and effect and is incorporated herein by reference.
E. Prohibited Uses: Taking photographs, making audio and/or video recordings, and broadcasting audio and/or video from within a courthouse or courtroom is generally prohibited. Court proceedings may only be photographed, recorded, or broadcast in accordance with Rule 605 of the South Carolina Appellate Court Rules. Photographing, recording, or broadcasting in common areas of the courthouse, or in the courtrooms when court is not in session, may be allowed at the discretion of the Clerk of Court.
While the provisions of this order apply to the common areas inside all courthouses, this order does not apply inside non-judicial offices that may be located within a courthouse, such as an assessor's office or treasurer's office.
Notice of the contents of this Order shall be given to jurors and posted on the doors to the courthouse and to courtroom doors.
Violation of the terms of this Order may result in the confiscation of an Electronic Device, and the violator may be held in contempt of court and subject to sanctions. However, mere possession of an Electronic Device, without more, is not sufficient to permit confiscation. If an Electronic Device is confiscated, it must be returned to the owner before the end of normal business hours.
s/Donald W. Beatty
Donald W. Beatty
Chief Justice of South Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina
March 9, 2023
1 "Electronic Device" is any electronic device capable of storing, accessing, or transmitting digital or analog information and includes, but is not limited to: personal computers, tablets, mobile telephones, e-book readers, smartwatches, smartglasses, or any device similar to these listed.
2 This Order does not apply to law enforcement officers or court officials acting within their official capacity.
3 See RE: Use of Remote Communication Technology by the Trial Courts (As Amended September 21, 2021), available at: https://www.sccourts.org/courtOrders/displayOrder.cfm?orderNo=2021-09-21-01.
4 This order is available at: https://www.sccourts.org/courtOrders/displayOrder.cfm?orderNo=2009-07-20-01.