In the wake of a fatal courthouse shooting in Kentucky this week and a Pocahontas County man’s shotgun assault on his estranged wife, Iowa judges and attorneys are thinking about security in their workplaces. A Woodbury County judge on Tuesday ordered the sheriff to provide law enforcement measures to keep weapons out of the Law Enforcement Center and its courtrooms. Iowa State Court Administrator David Boyd says court workers are constantly aware of security concerns. Boyd says it’s not just judges and court personnel who need to be safe to do their jobs — the public also has to feel people can go to a courthouse and not have to worry about their own personal safety. It’s fair to say people engaged in lawsuits, citations, divorce and other legal matters are often stressed, and Boyd says it’s not just in courtrooms. In most counties in Iowa, besides courtrooms, the county courthouse also houses other offices “and it’s just as much likelihood that someone could become upset with a county auditor, a county recorder, a county supervisor.” Even at the city level, Boyd points out the current governor of Iowa, Tom Vilsack, began his political career as mayor of Mount Pleasant, replacing the former mayor who’d been shot and killed in the city council chambers. He says Iowa courthouse workers are lucky to have a relatively peaceful time of it — most of the time. He says there’ve been some cases. “We’ve had a number of situations over the years where someone has gotten out of control, or could have gotten out of control,” he says, “or where somebody even jumped across the bench and took a swipe at a judge.” “I think courtroom security, and courthouse security is something that all of us in the judicial branch and frankly in law enforcement as well have to constantly be aware of,” Boyd says. He says the courts have been working on the issue since a 1999 review of courthouse security, and have improved many of the areas of concern.
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