Judge jailed entire courtroom over ringing mobile phone

Judge loses his job over mobile-phone rage. Nothing says judicial like collective punishment.
A US judge has been removed from the bench for jailing an entire courtroom audience after none of them admitted being responsible for a ringing phone.

A commission on judicial conduct said Judge Restaino had acted "without any semblance of a lawful basis" and behaved like a "petty tyrant".

The judge had been presiding over a domestic violence cases when he heard a mobile phone ring. It upset him so much that he threatened that every single person in the court was going to jail unless the offending mobile phone was handed in to him. When no-one came forward, the judge ordered that the 46 people in the audience be taken into custody.

Link (Thanks, Glyn!)



  1. I’d bet that schoolteachers across the nation spontaneously orgasmed when they read this–it’s like their dream detention threat. “If none of you own up to this…”

  2. This happened in March 2005. That’s 2 years and 8 months ago. Why did it take so long for the State Commission on Judicial Conduct to recommend his removal. He admitted that he knew his action was wrong, and yet, he gets to remain in office for nearly 3 years, plus the time his appeal takes (who knows how many months/years).

    Does this not throw into doubt, all those cases held during the past 2-1/2 years, not to mention the future cases. Why is the judge not on administrative leave?

    I also wonder, why did the officers in court failed to find the ringing mobile phone? I would have thought that it would have been a simple matter, as mobile phones have different ringing tones, and all mobile phones records the date/time of the last few received calls. Perhaps the officers actually found the offending phone, but considered the judges mental state, and fearing he would toss the phone owner into jail, decided not to tell him who it was. Good intention which eventually backfired, when the judge tossed everybody into jail. At that point, the officers wouldn’t have came forward and said, “oh yes, we found out who it was, but we tried to protect him by not telling the judge”. The other 45 people would blame *THEM*.

  3. I’ve had someone’s phone go off during a final exam. Repeatedly.
    So I sympathize with him.

    Sadly, there isn’t a good way to handle this is there? Keep an EMP generator around to nuke anyone’s phone that isn’t turned off?

  4. Too much power in the wrong hands? Mmmmm….

    I think there’s a lot of that in this world and it’s not just limited to judges although I am sure there are many more of them with minds like this.

    Scary isn’t it.

  5. #5 – perhaps because being in a courtroom when a cell phone rings does not constitute probable cause for a forced search, times 46?

  6. If you think getting to sit in a big chair and bang a gavel doesn’t give you a big head, well, you’re naive.

  7. DANHEEB @ 6: As a professor or a student? As professor I doubt you threatened to fail the entire class, … right?

    I wonder what happened to the guy whose case it actually was.

    Or if it was the cellphone of one of the officers!

  8. So his explanation is that he was under stress in his personal life and snapped? I wonder how many times he let someone off with that excuse in the domestic violence cases he was trying?

  9. Does anyone know why he lost his job ( the exact grounds )? Was his disbarred as well?

    I’m guessing that it was because he violated due process on the 46 people by holding them in contempt without reason – but I can’t find out any more info.

  10. I was on jury duty recently, and during the proceedings (of a MURDER trial no less) one of the other jurors’ cell phone went off (I suspect this is pretty common). It was embarrassing for all the jurors to a certain extent, and maybe borderline for dismissal of the jury, because the owner of the phone apologized profusely to the judge and court (jurors are to remain silent at all times in court).

    The judge was very understanding, although she did look perturbed.

  11. Okay, I can’t condone collective punishment.

    On the other hand, I totally respect his cell-phone hatin’!

    On the other other hand, if he’d just get a cell-phone jammer, jammer panels or jammer paint, he wouldn’t be in this predicament.


    an audio-locating auto-taser to zap owners of loud obnoxious cellphones? oooooh, Santa, bring me a whole stockingful, that’s better than the tv-zapper!

  12. Last time I was called for jury duty, a sign was posted in the jury commons room, “Cellphones must be turned off in the courtroom.” Then a woman came in and told us the procedures mentioning, “Cellphones must be turned off in the courtroom.” Then we went to the courtroom and were told by the bailiff, “Cellphones must be turned off in the courtroom.” Then for the next four hours people wiggled their way out of their civic duty while the poor judge tried his damnedest to hobble together 12 jurors and 3 alternates who understood English, had the ability to be remotely impartial, and could follow a simple set of instructions. Then the cellphone of the woman sitting in front of me rang. The judge said, “Oh please, take the call. It must be very important for you to interrupt all the people in this courtroom with.” So the woman says “OK” and TAKES THE CALL. So… I’m with the judge on this one.

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