Hello? Justice Breyer’s Cellphone Rings in Court

Breyer, Supreme Court, cellphone, phone
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer speaks to an audience at the French Cultural Center, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017, in Boston, during a forum called From the Bench to the Sketchbook. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Even Supreme Court justices forget to turn off their cellphones: A High Court argument on Tuesday was interrupted by the familiar sound of a ring chime, and Justice Stephen Breyer seemed to be the culprit.

A mildly embarrassed Breyer quickly appeared to reach down to turn it off, as a majority of his colleagues on the bench broke into smiles. Justice Samuel Alito struggled to suppress a laugh.

Cellphones and other electronic devices are strictly forbidden in the ornate courtroom – a rule that includes observers and lawyers arguing before the court, but apparently not the justices themselves.

Breyer and Justice Clarence Thomas shared a quick laugh about the incident. But it didn’t fluster lawyer Neal Katyal, who was in the middle of answering a question.

Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg later called the incident an “oversight” and said Breyer doesn’t usually take his phone in to the courtroom.

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