Anger always seems to be simmering just beneath the surface in courtrooms, says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Defendants face the loss of their liberty, perhaps even their lives. Financial futures are decided. Child custody is awarded or denied. Almost every trial has a loser. Lawyers have considered a courthouse a secure sanctuary where decorum is strictly maintained, schedules are met, rules followed. After Friday’s shootings – which killed Fulton County Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes, court reporter Julie Brandau and Sgt. Hoyt Teasley of the Sheriff’s Department – members of Georgia’s legal community wondered if they had come to take their security for granted.
Clarke County Superior Court Judge Steve Jones said it’s easy to take safety for granted when no courtroom outbursts occur over a period of time. “Not now,” he said. “Not now.” Cobb County Superior Court Judge Dorothy Robinson, who took a guilty plea to marijuana possession by shooting suspect Brian G. Nichols in 1996, said most lawyers and judges thought “courts were the last bastions of authority. This kind of violence puts that in question.” Fulton County Judge Henry Newkirk carried a firearm as a prosecutor but stopped when he became a judge. “I’m rethinking that now,” he said.