Court Security

Resource Guide

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.


Featured Links

Fautsko, Timm Status of Court Security in State Courts – A National Perspective. (2013).

While security threats and violent incidents are on the rise, available funding from state and local governments for security staffing and equipment to protect courts is becoming increasingly limited. In the development of this report, significant information that NCSC compiled with respect to court building and courtroom security assessments was reviewed and analyzed.

Fautsko, Timm, Steve Berson Courthouse Violence in 2010-2012: Lessons Learned. (2013).

Report from meeting of leaders from six courthouses that had seen violent incidents between 2010 and 2012. Lessons learned and specific recommendations from the incidents are detailed.

Conference of Chief Justices/Conference of State Court Administrators CCJ/COSCA Court Security Handbook : Ten Essential Elements for Court Security and Emergency Preparedness. (2012).

Features Ten Elements for Effective Courtroom Safety and Security Planning, including Operational Security, Facility Security Planning, Emergency Preparedness and Response, Disaster Recovery, Threat Assessment, Incident Reporting, Funding, Security Equipment, Resources and Partnerships, and Courthouse Design.

Hall, Nathan W. et al. Steps to Best Practices for Court Building Security. (2016).

A list and explanation of the categories and topics related to court security. Document is divided into Fundamental, Critical, and Essential items, tasks, and procedures.

 

Fautsko, Timm, Steve Berson, and Steve Swenson. Courthouse Security Incidents Trending Upward: The Challenges Facing State Courts Today. (2012). Future Trends in State Courts.

Violent acts surrounding court cases have been steadily rising despite the presence of increased courthouse security. What must courts do to counteract this trend?

Conference of Chief Justices/Conference of State Court Administrators Resolution 5 In Support of the Importance of Court Security. (2012).

CCJ/COSCA resolution in support of local, state, and federal actions to support and fund court security efforts.

Continuity of Court Operations Web Site.

NCSC's Web site features an Online Planning Guide, an Online Course, and additional resources.

Court Security Vendors.

Court Security Vendors from the Court Technology Vendor List.

Ericksen, Chuck A. and Anne Skove. Courthouse Security: The Anti-Government Movement Today. (2006). Future Trends in State Courts. Thought by many to be in decline, mitigated perhaps by tough prosecution, organizational incompetence, infighting, and the nonappearance of the New World Order, the anti-government movement groups have been “quietly retooling” since their peak in the 1990s.
Federal Courthouses: Improved Collaboration Needed to Meet Demands of a Complex Security Environment. (September 2011). United States Government Accountability Office.

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.

Emergency Management

Zeruba, John E. Courthouse Security - A Direction or a Destination?. (2007). Justice System Journal (Vol. 28, No. 1).

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.

A Comprehensive Emergency Management Program: A Model for State and Territorial Courts, 2007. (January 2007). Court Consulting Services.

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.

Continuity of Court Operations: Steps for COOP Planning. (September 2007).

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.

Birkland, Thomas A. and Carrie A. Schneider. Emergency Management in the Courts: Trends After September 11th and Hurricane Katrina. (2007). Justice System Journal (Vol. 28, No. 1).

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.

Strategy for Pandemic Influenza. (March 2006). Florida State Courts, Unified Supreme Court /Branch Court Emergency Management Group This resource outlines the strategic goals for emergency preparedness efforts in the Florida State Courts. The main goal is the courts must be kept open to ensure justice for the people.
Casey, Pamela. A National Strategic Plan for Judicial Branch Security. (February 2006). NCSC and National Sheriff`s Association.

This report discusses eight strategies to improve judicial branch security that emerged from the National Summit on Court Safety and Security.

Ortwein, Carolyn E. A Road Map for the Design and Implementation for a State Court Emergency-Preparedness Program. (2006). Future Trends in State Courts.

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.

Siegel, Lawrence et al. Planning for Emergencies: Immediate Events and Their Aftermath: A Guide for Local Courts. (2005). Washington, DC: American University, School of Public Affairs, Justice Programs Office Final Report from the SJI Court Security and Disaster Preparedness Project. This report pinpoints common threads that run through literature and firsthand accounts of emergency situations in court systems. Common guidelines were created and presented as a blueprint to follow during court security incidents.
Emergency Management for Courts. (2003). Best Practices Institute.

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.

Emergency Management Guide for Business and Industry: A Step-by-Step Approach to Emergency Planning, Response and Recovery for Companies of All Sizes. (October 2003). FEMA This guide provides information on how to create and maintain an emergency-management program. It is intended to be used by any organization with a large number of employees.
Emergency Preparedness Initiative: Guide on the Special Needs of People with Disabilities for Emergency Managers, Planners, and Responders. (2005). Washington, DC: National Organization on Disability This guide highlights key disability concerns in emergency planning and provides guidelines for developing plans that will take into account the needs and insights of people with disabilities before, during, and after emergencies.
Emergency Management Agencies. FEMA This Web site contains contact information of state emergency managers including e-mail addresses.  
Contingency Planning: COOP Self-Assessment Guide & Checklist. 9-11 Summit Provides a checklist that can be used to develop a contingency plan. Includes checklists for essential functions, authorities and delegations, alternative facilities, communications, program management, and testing exercises.

Facilities

Fautsko, Timothy F., et al. Steps to Best Practices for Court Building Security. (February 2010).

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.

Guidelines for Implementing Best Practices in Court Building Security: Costs, Priorities, Funding Strategies, and Accountability. (January 2010). Williamsburg, VA: National Center for State Courts.

This document details best practices in court security established by the National Center for State Courts.

Cooper, Caroline S. The Evolving Concept of Court Security. (2007). Justice System Journal (Vol. 28, No. 1).

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.

Gould, Jon B. Security at What Costs? A Comparative Evaluation of Increased Court Security. (2007). Justice System Journal (Vol. 28, No. 1).

This article examines the effects of heightened security on court operations and constituents in two metropolitan county court systems.

Feiner, Edward A. Securing Our Future. (2007). Justice System Journal (Vol. 28, No. 1).

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.

Walker, J. Douglas. Intelligent Video Technologies Enhance Court Operations and Security. (2006). Future Trends in 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.

Hardenbergh, Dan. The Future of Court Security. (2004). Future Trends in State Courts.

This article discusses threats to court security, risk assessment, countermeasures, and other court safety issues.

Court Security Survey Report. (October 1999).

American Judges Association.

This report briefly outlines the results of a 1997 survey of the states regarding existing courthouse security equipment, procedures, statutory authority, committees, and resources.
Wisconsin Supreme Court Rule 70.39. Orders each county to establish a court security and facilities committee and discusses the membership and duties of such a committee.
National Sheriffs` Association Physical Security Checklist. This form provides a checklist to assess the effectiveness of the lighting, barriers, and the interior and exterior security of the building. The Courthouse Security Audit highlights the Trial Court Performance Standards and Measurement System regarding safety, accessibility, and convenience.

Incident Reporting

Perkins, George Protecting Court Staff: Recognizing Judicial Security Needs. (2006). Future Trends in State Courts.

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.

Security Incident/Criminal Report Form. This is a standard court-incident report for the West Virginia Court of Appeals, which includes date, time, location, victim, and potential suspects.
Threat/Security Incident Report. This form is from the Wisconsin courts.

Risks to Judges

O`Neil, Jim. Home Security Audit and Recommendations (updated). (2013). Court Consulting Services, National Center for State Courts.

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.

Franklin, Malcom. Ensuring the Personal Security of Judges. (2009). Future Trends in State Courts.

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.

Bell, Robert M. Improving the Security of Our State Courts. (May 2007). On behalf of the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) Written testimony submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives' Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. It addresses security issues within the state courts, including recent incidents, threats against judges, funding challenges, and courthouse terrorism. 
DeFrances, Carol J. Prosecutors in State Courts, 2007. (June 2006). Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin Presents findings from the 2007 National Survey of Prosecutors, the latest in a series of data collections about the Nation's 2,300 State court prosecutors’ offices that tried felony cases in State courts of general jurisdiction. This study provides information on the number of staff, annual budget, and felony cases closed for each office.
Hardenbergh, Dan. The Future of Court Security and Judicial Safety. (2005). Future Trends in State Courts.

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.

Kelson, Stephen. An Increasingly Violent Profession. (March 2001). Utah State Bar Journal 14, no. 8 This article stresses the importance of court security and provides examples as to why threats to security can occur in any court at any time if the proper precautions are not made.
Calhoun, Frederick S., and Stephen W. Weston. Defusing the Risk to Judicial Officials: The Contemporary Threat Management Process. (2001). Alexandria, VA: National Sheriffs` Association Report uses personal stories of violence in courts to provide reasons for courts to implement contemporary threat-management programs. Explains the contemporary threat-management process, ways of implementing the process in most courts, and other options to improve court security.
Weiner, Neil Alan et al. Safe and Secure: Protecting Judicial Officials. (Winter 2000). Court Review 36, no. 4: 26 This article addresses personal attacks against a particular judge, as well as symbolic attacks against the judiciary taken out on a random judge. The reasons for heightened court security are listed and improvements are suggested for protecting the judiciary.
Taking Precautions: 101 Personal Safety Tips for Judges and Court Staff. Sheriff`s Department, Johnson County, Kansas and the National Center for State Courts This compilation of safety tips for judges includes recommendations for safety in the home, while commuting, at the courthouse, in chambers, and in the public media.

Screening Policies

Fautsko, Timothy F. Entry Screening: The Court's First Line of Defense. (2008).

Future Trends in State Courts

Universal entry screening of everyone who enters a courthouse - the public, staff, and judges - is an essential part of any court security program. NCSC's Security Assessment Team has developed a four-phase plan courts can use to implement universal entry screening.
Courtroom Safety. (2003). Washington Court Rules: Local Rules 91 This declaration bans certain devices, such as firearms and tasers, from the fifth floor of the Chelan County Regional Law and Justice Center, Juvenile Justice Center.
Hainey, Kari. Guns, Courts, and Civil Liberties. (July 2003). Bench & Bar of Minnesota 60, no. 6 According to this article, 36 counties in Minnesota banned guns in courtrooms, and a supreme court order (June 2, 2003) prohibits guns from the court of last resort and court of appeals.
Joint Administrative Order No. 2001-01J. (March 2001). Michigan State Court Administrator`s Office This report proclaims that all who enter the designated court areas are subject to search and all persons are prohibited from entering the facilities with weapons, such as firearms, explosives, knives, etc.
Administrative Order No. 1-01-B-3 in re Courthouse Security. (October 1997). Circuit Court of the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit This order defines who is and is not permitted to bring a firearm into the courthouse. The order outlines the reasons as to why strict control of firearms is necessary for the security of the courts and the public. 
ADA Weapons Screening Policy. Superior Court of California This policy sets guidelines for interacting with persons with disabilities who enter a weapons-screening station at the Alameda County Courthouse.

State Reports

Office of Court Security. (2011). Ohio Judicial System. This Web page collects the information Ohio provides internally to its courts regarding court security.
Washington State Courthouse Public Safety Standards 2009. (2009). Court Security Committee, Board for Judicial Administration This state report discusses recommended standards for courthouse security in Washington State's courts.
Colorado Courthouse Security Resource Guide. (April 2008). This guide was designed to help counties develop and maintain a comprehensive courthouse security program, the Colorado Courthouse Security Resource Guide contains both general and specific information on a number of areas believed essential to establishing a model court security program. It is meant to be used by court security committees to enhance court security.
Critical Issues: Planning Priorities for the Wisconsin Court System: Fiscal Years 2006-2007 and 2007-2008. (February 2006). See pp. 6-10 for courthouse security recommendations, timeline for completion of recommendations, and a general history of the courthouse security systems in place before the assessment of this committee.
Report to the Chief Judge and Chief Administrative Judge. (October 2005). This report focuses on the current state of security in New York State Court System and provides recommendations for future improvements in court security. The appendix provides copies of policies, manuals, forms, and training used in the New York Unified Court System.
Report of New Hampshire Supreme Court Committee on Court Security. (October 2005). The New Hampshire Supreme Court Committee on Court Security reviewed the existing security systems in New Hampshire courthouses and provided recommendations for improvement. The appendix includes text of a bill that would make it a class A felony to threaten or harm certain public officials, and provide for prosecution by the state attorney general.
Recommendations on Trial Court Security Funding Standards and Methodology. (2005). San Francisco: Judicial Council of California, Administrative Office of the Courts A working group created by the Judicial Council of California created uniform standards and guidelines that may be used in the provision of trial-court-security services.
Facility Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan. (March 2003). A template for each court to prepare a response plan in the event of an emergency.
Preparing for the Unthinkable: A Report to the Arizona Judicial Council. (December 2003). Office of Court Security and Emergency Preparedness, Arizona Supreme Court This report provides recommendations by the Committee on Courthouse Security and Emergency Preparedness, which include establishing a Supreme Court Administrative Order to mandate the development of court emergency preparedness, creating a Critical Incident Response Team for each court, and creating a multi-agency emergency-planning committee for each court. (KF8733.7 .P74 2003)
Keep the Courts Open. (March 2002). A statewide resource for courts to plan responses to emergencies. See p. 62 for a continuity-of-operations plan (COOP) template for local courts.
Facility Standards: The Michigan Courthouse. (December 2000). Michigan Supreme Court, Court Facilities Standards Project See Section 2.6 on Security. This report provides Michigan’s court security standards, a checklist to help courts assess their preparedness for breaches in court security, and training materials for the courts.
Seigel, Lawrence. Strategic Plan for Court Security. (1999). Santa Fe: Administrative Office of the Court, Supreme Court of New Mexico This report provides a comprehensive assessment of security issues in the courts of New Mexico and illustrates ways in which the courts can successfully implement the suggested safety guidelines.
1999 Final Report: Courthouse Security. Superior Court of California, County of San Mateo The Building Security Committee intended to create a security system for Northern Court Branch courtrooms similar to the one in the Hall of Justice of the Superior Court of California. The committee recommended that all courts in the Northern Court Branch be consolidated into one building to further develop court security initiatives.
Wisconsin Courthouse Security Resource Center. The Wisconsin Sheriff’s and Deputy Sheriff’s Association, U.S. Marshal’s Office of the Western District of Wisconsin, Director of State Courts, Office of the Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Fox Valley Technical College, 2000. This link includes chapter 7 from Wisconsin’s Courthouse Security Manual, which addresses creating contingency safety and security plans.
Guidelines for Courthouse Security in Iowa. The guidelines provide the principal elements of court security planning. They point to key security and safety issues that should be addressed by court administrators, law enforcement officials, and Boards of Supervisors. In general, the guidelines provide a flexible and workable approach for ensuring safe and secure court facilities.

Terrorism and Homeland Security

9-11 Summit. This summit was held in September 2002 for justice system leadership facing terrorism and other catastrophic events. This Web site provides links to the materials used throughout the conference’s sessions.
Bomb Threat. (2002). This form provides guidelines for responding to security and safety threats, including ways to keep the individual making the threat calm, the people potentially in danger safe, and the proper respondents informed of the current characteristics of the bomb and chemical/biological item.   
Chemical/Biological Threat. (2002). This form provides guidelines for responding to security and safety threats, including ways to keep the individual making the threat calm, the people potentially in danger safe, and the proper respondents informed of the current characteristics of the bomb and chemical/biological item.
Guidance for Protecting Building Environments from Airborne Chemical, Biological or Radiological Attacks. (May 2002). Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Disease Control and Prevention This document is a resource for executives, managers, and policymakers. It provides information regarding securing critical justice information systems and is a resource of ideas and best practices to consider in building an agency’s information infrastructure.
Fein, Robert A., and Bryan Vossekuil. Assassination in the United States: An Operational Study of Recent Assassins, Attackers, and Near Lethal Approaches. (March 1999). Journal of Forensic Sciences 44, no. 2: 321 This study is an operational exploration of the thinking and behavior of 83 people who either attacked or prepared to attack a prominent public official in the United States.
Homeland Security Contact List. This site provides each state’s homeland security contact.
Security of the Mail. United States Postal Service This site provides guidelines for safety procedures through the USPS Emergency Preparedness Plan, an archive of news releases regarding mail security since 2001, and regulations for aviation mail and hazardous materials.

Threat Assessment

Calhoun, Frederick S., and Stephen W. Weston. Protecting Judicial Officials: Implementing an Effective Threat Management Process. (June 2006). BJA Bulletin Suggests "10 Golden Rules for Effective Threat Management." Cites statistics from a Pennsylvania study and from the U.S. Marshalls, who provide security for federal courts. Notes that in the past 35 years 8 state or local judges have been killed; 13 state or local judges have been physically assaulted; 3 local prosecutors have been killed; 4 local prosecutors have been assaulted; at least 5 law enforcement officers have been killed at local courthouses; 27 law enforcement officers have been assaulted at local courthouses; 42 court participants have been killed at local courthouses; and 53 court participants have been assaulted at local courthouses. Solutions to courthouse violence include communication; appropriate case management; and using consistent and valid threat assessment methods.
Martin, Lorena, FCCI, and NCJIT. Security for Court Interpreters. (2006). NCSC, United States Marshals Service, and National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators.

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.

Review of the United States Marshals Service Judicial Security Process. (March 2004). U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General This report provides the findings of USMS initiatives to increase security in the judiciary. The report addresses current threat assessments and plans for future security programs.
Vulnerability Assessment Methodologies Report. (July 2003). U.S. Department of Homeland Security: Office for Domestic Preparedness The Department of Homeland Security Office for Domestic Preparedness identified a need to examine and classify various types of vulnerability assessment methodologies, software, and tools that could be used by state and local governments to assess the risk associated with various assets within their areas of responsibility.
Vossekuil, Bryan et al. Preventing Targeted Violence Against Judicial Officials and Courts. (2002). United States Secret Service The report begins with findings from operational research on assassinations and attacks against public officials, then provides a review of the threat-assessment approach and concludes with a discussion of research recommendations to better understand and prevent targeted violence in the judiciary.
The United States Marshals Service, Judicial Security Division. The Judicial Security Division of the United States Marshals Services provides a variety of programs to anticipate and increase the security of the federal judiciary, including threat assessment, funding and education programs.
United States Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center. This site provides links to the NTAC’s publications, which deal with threat assessments and targeted violence in schools. NTAC provides programs involving prevention of targeted violence and insider threat collaborators.

Training

Volume 1: Overview and Exercise Program Management. (February 2007). This reference manual delivers an exercise program that helps address identified planning, training, and equipment needs and provides homeland security professionals with the tools to plan, conduct, and evaluate exercises to improve overall preparedness.
Volume 2: Exercise Planning and Conduct. (February 2007). This reference manual delivers an exercise program that helps address identified planning, training, and equipment needs and provides homeland security professionals with the tools to plan, conduct, and evaluate exercises to improve overall preparedness.
Baehler, Aimee, and Douglas Somerlot. Developing and Evaluating Courthouse Security and Disaster Preparedness . (2005). Denver, CO: Justice Management Institute : A Collaborative Process Between State and Federal Courts: With Curriculum Materials
Applying Security Practices to Justice Information Sharing. (March 2004). Office of Justice Programs This document is intended to educate justice executives and managers on basic security practices, which can be quickly applied within their organizations. The recommendations presented to further court security revolve around a community of electronic trust between different facilities.
Uekert, Brenda and Denise Dancy. Developing a Domestic Violence Policy for the Workplace. (November 2003).

This report describes the process to develop a domestic violence workplace policy.

Correctional Management Institute of Texas. This organization offers a variety of training programs for individuals serving adult and juvenile institutional and community corrections agencies. 
Incident Command Simulation Training Program for High Consequence Events . Developed and housed by the Law Enforcement Mananagement Institute, this program provides participants the opportunity to simulate real-time crises as the basis for security programs based on the Incident Command System adopted by NIMS and endorsed by the Homeland Security Presidential Directive.
Records Management Training. The National Archives This guide provides recommendations for economical and effective records management.

Transporting Prisoners

Court Security and the Transportation of Prisoners. (June 1997). NIJ Research Preview This report provides guidelines to improve the safety of prisoner transportation.
National Sheriffs` Association. This site provides information from the Court Officers’ and Deputies Association, which provides educational training, programs, and a newsletter for those working in court security, prisoner transportation, and civil process.

Workplace Violence

Workplace Violence: Issues in Response. (2002). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation The FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime examines issues in prevention, threat assessment and management, and crisis management, as well as critical-incident response, research, and legislation related to law enforcement.
Violence in the Workplace: Risk Factors and Prevention Strategies.. (July 1996). Current Intelligence Bulletin 57 This document reviews current knowledge of fatal and nonfatal violence in the workplace. It also summarizes issues to be addressed when dealing with workplace violence in settings such as offices, factories, warehouses, hospitals, convenience stores, and taxicabs.