Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice commends the Trial Court for Emergency Administrative Order 20-10, issued on June 24th 2020, which takes effect on July 13th and temporarily eliminates bans on the use of cell phones and other personal electronic devices (“PEDs”) inside all Massachusetts state courthouses. Our 2018 report, Cell Phones in the Courthouse: An Access to Justice Perspective, examined the disproportionate impact courthouse cell phone restrictions have on self-represented litigants and low-income court users. 
As that report demonstrated, many self-represented litigants need to use cell phones within the courtroom to display evidence, conduct legal research, or access language translation services. In addition, many court users require their cell phones to coordinate aspects of everyday life, such as ensuring proper childcare, obtaining transportation, or communicating with employers. Our report found that without access to these resources through their cell phones, self-represented litigants are placed at an even further disadvantage compared to litigants with attorneys. To fully correct the unintended consequences of these cell phone bans, Massachusetts Appleseed recommended that the Commonwealth adopt a universal permissive policy that allows cell phone use in courthouses statewide.
The Court’s Order temporarily eliminating all cell phone bans is a significant step towards that goal and has the potential to greatly expand access to justice in Massachusetts. We are extremely grateful to the Trial Court for this essential progress, but we urge the Trial Court to make this temporary change permanent in order to further increase self-represented litigants access to justice.


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