Monday, January 4, 2010

Courthouse Security and Threats Against Judges

When I first started out as an attorney, courthouse security was virtually non-existent. There were no courthouse metal detectors or armed courtroom bailiffs back then. I'll never forget one kind, elderly bailiff who "guarded" the grand jury room in one South Georgia courthouse where I was an Assistant D.A. Bless his heart! If any disturbance had occurred, this bailiff surely would never have heard it.
Were those kinder, gentler times? And were judges and courthouses more safe and secure back then? Or were we just more naive back then about the dangers? Maybe it was some of both.
But times have certainly changed now! And not for the better! Did you hear the tragic news of yet another courthouse shooting this morning at a federal courthouse in Las Vegas? Sadly, it appears that a court security guard was killed and a deputy marshal was injured by a lone gunman. Of course, you probably also remember the 2005 Brian Nichols shooting incident at an Atlanta courthouse in which Nichols, a prisoner, grabbed a deputy's gun, killed the judge, and then continued his shooting spree until his re-capture a couple of days later.
Doesn't it seem that the number of such courthouse shooting incidents continues to rise? And to top it off, a new Department of Justice report released today indicates that the number of threats against judges and prosecutors has doubled in the past six years.
I don't mean to suggest that these are additional signs that our society is necessarily "going to Hell in a handbasket." But I do believe that these are signs that we are becoming a more violent society and that more metal detectors and security guards alone are insufficient to "fix" our society's problems. Don't you agree? What are some possible solutions? What do you think?

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