Because courthouses must be accessible and in centralized locations, they are vunerable to acts of random violence. Courts must have proper court security procedures, technology, personnel, and architectural features, to not only protect the safety of the people and property within and around the courts, but also the integrity of the judicial process. While there is no one solution to issues concerning court security, proper planning must involve collaboration with law enforcement offices, emergency agencies, and governing bodies. Courts must also have emergency management plans in place.
Links to related online resources are listed below. Non-digitized publications may
be borrowed from the NCSC Library; call numbers are provided.
NCSC's Web site features an Online Planning Guide, an Online Course, and additional resources.
Court Security Vendors from the Court Technology Vendor List.
Violent acts surrounding court cases have been steadily rising despite the presence of increased courthouse security. What must courts do to counteract this trend?
NCSC Area of Expertise.
This report provides a step-by-step approach for court officials to plan and implement a plan to mitigate court disruptions in the event of an emergency.
This report discusses eight strategies to improve judicial branch security that emerged from the National Summit on Court Safety and Security.
Since the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, the tragic shootings in the Fulton County Courthouse, and the execution of a federal judge's family, state courts have expressed an urgent need to develop and enhance their emergency-preparedness programs. This article provides a model for the development of an emergency-preparedness program.
The COOP online course is intended to augment and reinforce the information provided in the COOP Planning Guide. It includes an introduction, 12 modules relating to different components of COOP planning, an evaluation, and a bibliography. Each of the modules includes resource materials and a video presentation by an expert in the area.
This guide is available to assist courts with the development of a COOP plan. The plan covers how to establish effective processes and procedures to quickly deploy pre-designated personnel, equipment, vital records and supporting hardware and software to an alternative site to sustain organizational operations for up to 30 days. It also covers the resumption of normal operations after the emergency has ended.
To ensure that courthouses "meet today's standards of protection," the author outlines a three-step proess that includes a threat analysis, a court facility site survey, and a court security committee.
This brief article introduces a new court position, a director of emergency management, who would help tighten court security. The article looks at the responsibilities of this position and where it fits in to the existing structure of the courts.
This report explains why it is critical to develop emergency-management practices in state courts and provides examples of what NCSC considers to be "Best Practices" in this area.
Based on the experiences in New York and Louisiana, this article examines the various plans that have been used by courts to respond to disasters.
According to DOJ data, threats against the courts have increased between fiscal years 2004 and 2010—from approximately 600 to more than 1,400. The Interagency Security Committee—an interagency group that develops standards for federal facility security—has assigned courthouses the highest security level because they are prominent symbols of U.S. power.
This document details best practices in court security established by the National Center for State Courts.
This article shows the latest advances in intelligent video surveillance, video streaming, and Web-based conferencing can help courts secure their facilities, increase operational efficiency, and improve the administration of justice. Combining technologies increases the scope and utility of applications, while coordinating with other government technology initiatives enables courts to realize even better cost/benefit ratios.
The author presents a "philosophical discussion" of the effects that securing the country's courthouses will have on the public's perception of their government and other civic institutions.
This article examines the effects of heightened security on court operations and constituents in two metropolitan county court systems.
The NCSC court security assessment team has evaluated court security in terms of "best practices" – guidelines describing those security measures that should be utilized with respect to a comprehensive set of topics covering court buildings and court operations. These best practices are based on a compilation of various guidelines from the U.S. Marshals Service, National Sheriffs’ Association, International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Transportation Safety Administration, the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Association for Court Management.
The author discusses the shift in the meaning of "court security" from focusing on protecting the courthosue and its occupants to a broader understanding that includes continuity of court operations.
This article discusses threats to court security, risk assessment, countermeasures, and other court safety issues.
American Judges Association.
The number of incidents against the federal judiciary has been increasing, and it is expected that the incidents against state judiciaries have as well, but an incident reporting system for states is not available to track the trends. A more comprehensive knowledge of potential risks, such as developing threat-assessment databases and collecting statistical data on judicial incidents, will make state courts safer for employees. Even with a better understanding of security threats, judges and court staff should remain vigilant against potential risks.
This article discusses how a mandated, easily understood reporting system and coordination between law enforcement and the judiciary are essential to dealing with security threats.
This resource provides recommendations for judges to audit their home security, including the perimeter and interior of homes, condominiums or apartments. Recommendations are also included for mail security, family security, and travel security.
Because of recent shootings in the courtrooms in the United States, there has been increased discussion on allowing judges to carry guns into the courtroom. This article investigates this idea as well as other topics such as threat assessments and courtoom security measures.
Future Trends in State Courts
This manual, designed especially for court interpreters, covers basic security; the cycle and dynamics of aggression; in-court and out-of-court proceedings; defendant and inmate issues; weapons; travel to and from the workplace, as well as domestic and international travel; dealing with emergencies; personal safety.
This report describes the process to develop a domestic violence workplace policy.