You can take your cellphone into courthouses and courtrooms in California. There are however restrictions placed on what you can do with them once you are inside. Most of these restrictions may seem like common knowledge to most, but none the less, the courts do have published guidelines, typically available on their website, of what is and isn’t acceptable use of cellphones in the court. Each County Court in California may be different so you will want to check, and if unsure, you can simply ask security at the front doors when entering. For reference, here is a cell phone policy for Los Angeles County Superior Courts Jury members. We can see that they do have restrictions on when and where, but generally allow use if it does not disturb others.
Common courtesy with cellphones in the court: More and more courts these days are offering free wifi. This is great for those who are in the clerk’s office filing documents as some lines to file documents can take hours to get through. Streaming videos or attending to emails on your phone can help pass the time as well as ensure that waiting at the court for half a day isn’t a complete waste of time. For those who are inside a courtroom during session will want to use a bit more discretion. There are important matters being handled continuously in courtrooms throughout the day. When a case is called, the Judge will have little time and requires the courtroom is free of distraction. Despite dozens of cases that are handled daily, when a case is being heard, the rest of the courtroom is expected to remain silent and courteous to those whose turn it is. The court does allow for you to wait your turn in the courtroom, but becoming a distraction is not permitted. For this reason it is a good idea to treat the courtroom like a movie theater. Silence your cellphone, do not make calls, or do anything on it that would bring distraction to the proceedings taking place.
Recording and Photography from cellphones in Court: With the advance of modern technology with regards to cellphones, almost everyone has access to recording on the spot. This could be digital movie, still photographs or even audio recording. While most cellphone owners may use one of these functions daily, the court does have restrictions on this recording activity within the courthouse. Again each County and court may be different, but generally the above is not permitted without permission from the court. Here is how San Bernardino County Courts explain the policy: Cell Phone Policy.
As with anything in the court, it is better to know the expectations and restrictions prior to entering the court. As mentioned above, many courts do have specific restrictions and you can view them online prior to visiting. You can find your local California Superior Court here, and if any doubt, simply ask security when you enter the court.