Friday, October 28, 2005
From Law.com (New York Law Journal): "In the wake of a series of unsettling breaches of courthouse security around the nation, the Office of Court Administration on Wednesday released a comprehensive set of 47 proposals to better protect New York courthouses.
A 10-member task force of court officials offered an amalgam of proposals, both large and small, to bolster security. They ranged from providing all 1,200 state-paid judges with bulletproof benches to insuring that prisoners change into civilian clothes before they are brought to courthouses for appearances.
The 51-page report is available on the court system's Web site at www.courts.state.ny.us.
In the last decade, the court system has handled 1,300 threats to judges without any serious disruption of courthouse routine, said Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman, who ordered the review.
But, he added, the recent slaying of a judge and two court employees in an Atlanta courtroom and the murder of the husband and mother of a federal judge in Illinois "prompted a top-to-bottom review of security procedures throughout the state to make sure that we have the most modern, state-of-the-art security procedures possible."
OCA will spend $342 million, or nearly 17 percent of its $2.1 billion budget, for security in the current fiscal year, which ends March 31. There are 3,500 court officers statewide, an all-time high, with 2,500 deployed in New York City.
Among the report's recommendations:
• Expand statewide statutory authorization in 23 counties for defendants to make routine court appearance via video teleconferencing and eliminate a requirement that the defendant consent to the video appearance.
• Make crimes against judges and court personnel designed to impede the judicial process aggravated offenses similar to the higher designation given to crimes committed against witnesses, jurors and crime victims.
• Establish SWAT-like teams of specially trained court officers to respond to emergencies and serious judicial threats.
• Clarify guidelines on the handcuffing of prisoners to require that they be rear-handcuffed at all times except when appearing before a jury or at an extended hearing.
• Establish a dormitory facility for the training of court officers upstate.
• Issue bullet-resistant vests to all state-paid court officers and develop a way to pay for them.
• Develop a "smart" identification card for court employees and attorneys who use photo ID cards to bypass security searches upon entering courthouses. The new cards would use computer technology to identify the card holder and could be canceled electronically once the card holder is no longer entitled to enter a courthouse without being searched.
• Study whether state court officers should be subject to ongoing performance standards, including periodic assessment of their physical skills."
Story... [Mark Godsey]