There is no question that despite a tight budget, the court system must provide security to the Magistrate's Court. All it takes is one tragic incident to highlight the need.
I served 14 years in the New York judiciary and can give witness to the fact that in this day and age, heightened security is essential. After a tragic shooting death in the courthouse, we installed metal detectors in the lobby. Thereafter, knives of all types and guns were found in the potted plants, discarded by those queued up to pass through inspection before entering.
I recently had occasion to witness Magistrate Beth Ann Prince at work in Beaufort County Magistrate's Court. She had no security whatsoever, nor a court officer whose function is not only to provide protection but also to aid in the handling of documents and witnesses.
Litigants come to court with pent-up emotions regardless of the type of case. Even the Probate Court can be a venue for hostilities, which I saw firsthand when I presided over estate cases.
Having personally been the subject of two serious death threats from dissatisfied litigants, I shudder to think of what could've happened in the courtroom had metal detectors and armed court officers not been present.
Judges and litigants are still vulnerable outside the courthouse, but that should not be a reason for failing to provide it where justice is dispensed.
Albert J. Emanuelli
Hilton Head Island