WTHR-TV Channel 13

Securing our Courts

March 16, 2005
Washington D.C. - Atlanta was the most recent case, but court administrators say death threats against judges are not just isolated incidents.

Mary McQueen with the National Center for State Courts says, "I do know of one jurisdiction where a state court judge, a local judge, is under around the clock protection."

The National Center for State Courts has drawn up a list of ten essential steps for better courthouse security.

They include following procedures already in place, identifying likely threats and making sure personnel are properly trained.

Other steps, like video cameras and metal detectors, are basic, say officials, but only part of the equation.

The Department of Justice's Domingo Herraiz says, "The challenge is what was mentioned here today, making sure people are properly trained on them and they're in the right places and sheriff's deputies are there to actually man them."

Also recommended is limiting courthouse access to only a single entrance.

Zygmont Pines is a Pennsylvania court administrator. "If you can control the traffic that comes into the front door your chances of having an incident are dramatically decreased."

Some of these recommendations reflect steps already being taken in Indianapolis, where sheriff's deputies are being ordered to take refresher courses as part of an overall security re-evaluation.

If some of the steps called for seem obvious, officials say far too many courthouses have ignored even the basics in protecting those who work in them.

And a national summit is being planned for early next month on how to improve security and how to pay for it.