The Atlanta courthouse horror and the killings of a Chicago federal judge’s husband and mother underscore growing worries about the protection of the U.S. justice system, says the Christian Science Monitor. There’s also concern about going too far. Could the attacks and the intense courthouse fortification that could follow turn halls of justice into fortresses, and judges into robed “ghosts” of the public square? “The question is whether we turn courthouses into armed camps and isolate them even more from the public,” says Allen Sobel of the Des Moines-based American Judicature Society.
In Wapello County, Iowa, a county supervisor found that security measures installed in 2001 are already being overlooked – and that panic buttons haven’t been tested in three years. In Mississippi, there’s a renewed call for stricter security, including installing cameras aimed at judges’ parking spaces. Many courthouses are as tough to get into as Fort Knox. The new federal courthouse in Seattle features bullet-proof benches are shielded with Kevlar. In contrast, many state and county courthouses, like Atlanta’s, are seen as undermanned and overburdened. Robert Siciliano, a security expert in Boston, says, “It’s amazing how people in the legal system are like an open book. Anyone can pretty much get to them. Even celebrities in the limelight are stalked, but they’re not making decisions for people’s lives. Judges have higher profiles and are much more important to society than any celebrity.”