If your life is so bereft of excitement you have actually read this column the past week or so, you may recall I have been helping teach an Internet class for the National Judicial College. Judges from across our great land tune in, sign on and discuss subjects from the currently hot areas of Children in Need of Services to Court Management. This week’s topic was Court Security and the lead faculty member was my good friend from Mississippi, Judge D. Neil Harris.
During the class judges participated via computer and telephone as we delved into many facets of how our courts should be protecting those who use and those who operate them. Gentle Reader, you may not be surprised to hear that it is not just the Judge of the Posey Circuit Court whose decisions are occasionally at odds with the thoughts of those whose lives are affected by them. It turns out that practically every person everywhere thinks she or he could have arrived at a better legal conclusion than the ones delivered by judges. Sometimes these court participants or their supporters get upset.
While there were many opinions and suggestions by the judicial faculty and the judges who were students as to how best to ensure those who must use our courts and those who are privileged to operate them can do so in a calm, reasonable and safe environment, the area of most varied positions concerned the role of firearms.
On a personal note, for the first thirty-five years of my tenure on the Bench, Posey County courts simply relied on the good will of all involved or more accurately, good luck. But in 2016 our sheriff, Greg Oeth, sought necessary additional deputies. The County Council and County Commissioners acceded to his well-documented requests as required by the rulings of the Indiana Supreme Court and provided officers who are available in court. Thank you on behalf of the public who must use the courts and the court staff who work there.
However, extra court security personnel was not the most examined topic in the Internet course. As I mentioned above, it was how or when or if judges and their court staffs should help provide their own security by carrying guns.
This column is not a column about the Second Amendment. The theory of firearm ownership, possession and use is for the legislative and executive branches. The judicial branch’s role is to decide cases that are brought to court. What we in the Internet course were trying to determine was not whether guns should be available to judges and their staffs but whether any guns that are legally available should be carried by judges and their staffs.
Gentle Reader, if you have made it this far I have good news for you. What I plan to do is relate two anecdotes then quit. I hope they illustrate what was the consensus of the judges in the course.
First, let’s delve into the meaning of an instructional video I did in 2014 for a course I taught for the Municipal Court Judges of Missouri. Court Security was part of my lectures.
To make the video I commandeered friends such as Chuck Minnette, Marty Crispino, Greg Oeth, Tom Latham, Jason Simmons and Rodney Fetcher. Jason wore his camouflage fatigues and brought his AR15 with him to the courthouse. He ran into the courthouse at about 10:00 a.m. on a workday, brandished his AR15 and yelled, “Where’s the Judge?” The only reaction from those in the courthouse that day was to point towards the courtroom. One lady walked right by Jason and instead of being alarmed or sounding an alarm simply asked, “Where’s the Clerk’s Office?” In 2014 Posey County’s court security was a little lax.
The second example comes from yesterday as Peg and I were talking to an Osage County, Oklahoma Sheriff’s Deputy who is also a certified instructor on gun safety and court security. His business card is a play on the television series Have Gun – Will Travel that starred Richard Boone as Paladin, a gunman for hire. Paladin’s card read, “Have Gun – Will Travel”. Paul Didlake, the Osage County Deputy, has the following card: “Have Gun Class – Will Travel”.
Paul told Peg and me about a recent Oklahoma case where a woman who had a gun license and carried a pistol in her purse was raped and murdered. She had left her purse in her car.
Paul told us his mantra for personal security is: “The best kind of gun to have is the one you actually carry.”