There#8217;s no debating that it#8217;s a digital world

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 29, 2007

In March 2005, Niagara Falls (N.Y.) City Court Judge Robert Restaino got so upset that a cellular phone went off in his courtroom he decided to ask 46 people in attendance who owned the phone.

When no one owned up, he threw them all in jail.

Earlier this week, the state Commission on Judicial Conduct called his decision “a gross deviation from the proper role of a judge” and removed him from office.

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Restaino has appealed the decision, but the issue brings up an interesting question - what exactly should the threshold be for cell phone etiquette?

I suspect anybody who owns a cell phone has, at one time or another, been a little embarrassed by an inopportune ring at the wrong time. I was so poor at remembering to turn my phone off that I just decided to keep it on vibrate … all the time.

The bottom line, though, is that advancements in technology have changed the way we live. Whether for business or pleasure, the role of the cell phone is a large one for a good many people.

I don’t get upset anymore at people talking on cell phones while they’re driving. It doesn’t bother me if someone at another table is talking on one at a restaurant. When a conversation I’m having with someone gets interrupted with their cell phone and the person decides, politely, to take the call, it doesn’t bother me in any way whatsoever.

In short, I think everyone — including judges — should be a little more tolerant with cell phones. Most judges I know would never have gone to the extent of the misguided New York judge, but people should still be respectful in certain places.

It’s always helpful when announcements are made to turn off cell phones. As a cell phone owner and a person who detests the idea of that embarrassing ring, I appreciate the little reminders for me and my fellow cell-phone carriers.

But there are some places where people need to be particularly careful. A courtroom is one, but there are other places just as obvious.

Come on now, there’s no excuse for a phone going off at a funeral. Show some respect and keep it in the car. No call is that important.

And for goodness sakes, don’t mess up everyone’s time at a movie theater with your phone. The worst, though, if for someone to answer the call! Shut up already and take it outside if you have to.

There are a few taboos, but generally we should show some tolerance with the occasional cell phone annoyance. It’s just part of our world and something we should come to expect.

But be careful of those judges. No matter how unjustified, they can still throw you in the slammer.

Rick Greene is the managing editor of The Ironton Tribune. He can be reached at (740) 532-1441, ext. 12, or by e-mail at