Issue: Homeland Security
Courts are one of many sources of information for the homeland security effort. Many court buildings are obvious targets for domestic and international violence and terrorism, and, therefore, have to fund increased security precautions.
State court leaders encourage provision of federal resources to assist state courts.
Courts have a direct interest in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) both as a potential source of funding, and as a source of policies that will impact state government programs and legislation. To date the judiciary has not been part of the DHS perspective, either for grants or for policy. DHS has focused its funding on first responders, who have been defined as police, fire and emergency health. Information technology decisions have tended to focus on sources of intelligence information from law enforcement agencies. The situation is very similar to court access to Department of Justice grant programs in the 1980s and early 1990s when the judiciary was not part of the federal justice agenda. Tragic incidents in Chicago and Atlanta have heightened the need for security for judges, court personnel, the public, and courthouse facilities.
In their program instruction, the Office of State and Local Government Coordination and Preparedness (OSLGCP) recommended that state DHS advisory committees include a state court representative and encouraged collaboration and consideration of state court needs in the development of the state plans.
Efforts continue to encourage the DHS Office of Grant and Training to require state administering agencies to consult with and consider state court needs in the allocation of block grant funding and to encourage Congress to address state courts in the authorizing legislation.
GRO staff met with staff to Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) regarding the possible establishment of emergency preparedness funding for the state courts on 12/5/06. Draft language, patterned after the child welfare-related Court Improvement Program (CIP) for disbursement of funds to state courts, was provided to Senator Biden’s staff.
Congressman Earl Permutter (D-CO) successfully added an amendment to the Homeland Security authorization bill (HR 1684) that would make state courts eligible for a variety of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grants, including the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) program and State Homeland Security Grants. HR 1684 was approved by the House on 5/9/07.
On 10/25/07, Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) introduced the Crime Control and Prevention Act of 2007 (S 2237), which contains authorization for a $15 million grant program for state court emergency preparedness from the Department of Homeland Security. The legislation prescribes the CIP model for distributing the funds.State Court Administrator Pat Griffin made contact with staff to Senator Carper (D-DE) about our provision in the Homeland Security Reauthorization bill (HR 1684). Both the grant eligibility provisions and grant programs are expected to be re-introduced in the 111th Congress.