UK courts: sip your drink before entering to prove it’s not acid

Following a surge of acid-throwing attacks across the United Kingdom, courts across England and Wales are asking visitors to take a sip from any bottles they bring into the courthouse.  There are already reports of long security lines at one courthouse that has implemented the new policy.

 

New Jersey may prohibit publication of judges’ home contact information

The New Jersey legislature will consider bills to prohibit publishing or posting the home addresses and phone numbers of state judges and prosecutors.  Violating the prohibition would carry a potential 18-month prison sentence and a fine of $10,000.  The bill also contemplates civil penalties.

The proposal comes amid increased awareness of direct threats to the judiciary. Just yesterday, a Florida man was arrested on multiple counts of threatening and stalking judges in Broward County.  And the Texas legislature recently passed bills to beef up courthouse security and designate attacks on judges as hate crimes.

 

Helicopter drops grenades on Venezuelan Supreme Court

A police helicopter dropped four grenades on the Venezuelan Supreme Court building yesterday, and also fired at least 15 shorts at the Interior Ministry, in an apparent attack on President Nicolas Maduro and his supporters.  No one was injured.

Earlier this spring, the United States imposed economic sanctions on individual members Venezuela’s Supreme Court for their role in perpetuating Maduro’s illegitimate and catastrophic regime.

Iowa Supreme Court bans firearms in all state courthouses

In an order issued by Chief Justice Mark Cady, the Iowa Supreme Court yesterday banned firearms from all courthouses and justice centers in the state. The statewide regulation does not extend to law enforcement officials who are on duty in the buildings.

Although about half the counties in Iowa already restrict or ban weapons in courthouses, the Supreme Court rule creates a uniform statewide regulation.

Cady said in the order said that while the weapons policies were implemented to make the courtrooms safer, they have “failed to provide uniform protection across the state and throughout every courthouse.”

He acknowledged implementing a statewide weapons policy and the issue of restricting weapons is difficult, and this becomes more complex because city and county offices are within many court buildings. But he added it’s the court’s “constitutional responsibility” to make these buildings safe “before history records more acts of courthouse violence.”

Texas legislature passes bill designating attacks on judges as hate crimes

The bill would make attacks on judges and police officers–whether verbal or physical–a hate crime in the state.  “Terroristic threats” could carry a two-year prison sentence, a simple assault could lead to up to 20 years in prison, and assault leading to serious bodily injury could be punishable by 99 years to life in prison.

The bill now advances to Governor Greg Abbott for signature.

Texas House passes court security bill

The Texas House of Representatives has given preliminary approval to a bill that would create a judicial security division and would fund training for court security.  The bill was named to honor Judge Julie Kocurek, who was severely injured after being shot outside her home in 2015.  Texas Chief Justice Nathan Hecht pushed for the bill’s passage during his State of the Judiciary speech in February.

The judges among us — revisited

Yesterday, Judge Raymond Myles was shot and killed outside his home in Chicago’s Far South Side.  Police are still searching for a suspect and a motive, although it appears that his death may have simply been the result of attempted robbery.

We are attuned to stories of judges being threatened or attacked because of their profession.  And such threats, whether explicit or otherwise, are taken very seriously.  But this story, where it appears the victim just happened to be a judge, reminds us that members of the judiciary live among us.  When they take off their robes and leave the courthouse for the day, they are ordinary members of society with the same needs for food, clothing, security, and happiness as the rest of us.

Six years ago, after Judge John Roll was killed in the same Arizona shooting that terribly injured Gabby Giffords, I shared some similar thoughts.

My deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Judge Myles.

UK judges address attacks by populist press

The High Court of England and Wales ruled in November that the United Kingdom could not trigger “Brexit” without parliamentary assent.  The decision was affirmed in January, but anger about the additional procedural requirement remained. Now, the members of the High Court are now speaking out about the nature of the attacks leveled on them by the British press in the wake of the ruling.

Key bit:

“Criticism is very healthy. If you have got something wrong, fine, but there is a difference between criticism and abuse,” Thomas told the same committee a week ago.  “It’s the only time in the whole of my judicial career that I’ve had to ask for the police to give us a measure of advice and protection in relation to the emotions that were being stirred up,” he said.