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Published on Friday, February 8, 2013

Attacks spark bill to require security at all municipal courts

HB 1365 would require cities and counties to provide security for their courthouses. In response to incidents that occurred last year involving attacks on judges and court personnel, this bill would require security in every courthouse. Cities would be required to provide security at their municipal courts during business hours and possibly any other outside proceedings.

From 2009 to the present, Washington had seven cases of attack or assault on courthouse grounds. AWC has concerns about this bill, as it will increase the costs to cities and not necessarily be a benefit to the security issues is seeks to address.

Many of the attacks at courthouses in Washington involved assaults by family members of victims on the persons accused of murdering or harming their loved one. In these instances, security or law enforcement were escorting the defendant when the attacks occurred. Other attacks occurred off the courthouse grounds and one judge in Thurston County was assaulted at his residence with a caustic liquid.

A hearing for this bill is scheduled for February 12 at 1:30pm in the House Local Government Committee.

Additionally, the Attorney General is supporting bills that would increase penalties for assault in and around the courthouse. The bills, HB 1653 and SB 5484, would make these assaults felony crimes. The bills will be heard at 8:00am on February 15 in the Senate Law & Justice Committee. AWC supports this approach to address violence around court facilities.

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