The soon-to-retire chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court delivered his final “Condition of the Judiciary” message this (Wednesday) morning, and gave lawmakers several words of caution.
While legislators are mulling the idea of building a new maximum security prison, Chief Justice Louis Lavorato told lawmakers they must do more to ensure the safety of the state’s courthouses. Lavorato says judges and courthouse workers around the country have become targets of intimidation, threats and violence and he urged lawmakers to act “before a tragedy occurs in Iowa.”
Lavorato cited an Iowa Bar Association task force report which found security in most courthouses is “insufficient” while at the same time the threat of violence has escalated. Counties are responsible for providing the security at local courthouses, but Lavorato says it’s time for the state to help counties, financially, to make courthouses safer. “Most counties outside of Iowa’s urban centers do not have the financial resources to install and staff sophisticated security equipment, retrofit old courthouses, or provide deputies around the clock — nor should counties shoulder the responsibility alone,” Lavorato says.
Lavorato suggests that state officials join with counties in a “meaningful discussion” that will yield stronger security measures at county courthouses. Lavorato made his comments as he delivered his final “Condition of the Judiciary” message to Iowa legislators. Lavorato will retire this fall.