Security at the Courthouse

Read this important message written by Chief Judge Jerry A. Wiese II of the Eighth Judicial District Court in Nevada

By Jerry A. Wiese II, Chief Judge EJDC

In light of the recent events in Department 18, I thought it might be appropriate to discuss our court security and let the public know that the Regional Justice Center (RJC), the Family Court Courthouse (Family Court), and the court facilities housed in the Phoenix Building and Greystone are all safe and secure buildings. Occasionally, something unique happens that forces us to re-examine and re-evaluate our security, and that’s what we’re doing now. When an individual dove over Judge Holthus’ bench, during his sentencing hearing, it caused us all to question – how does something like that happen? Where was the marshal? Don’t we have security to prevent such a thing? If someone can get to the judge, are the lawyers and the public safe in the courthouse? Let me take this opportunity to answer some of these questions.

NRS 3.310 provides that in a jurisdiction where the population is 700,000 or more (like Clark County), “the judge of each district court may appoint a deputy marshal for the court instead of a bailiff. In each case, the bailiff or deputy marshal serves at the pleasure of the judge he or she serves.” The marshal’s duties are to: “a) preserve order in the court; b) attend upon the jury; c) open and close court; and d) perform such other duties as may be required of him or her by the judge of the court.” Although the statute only provides for a single marshal for each judge, it also provides that “for good cause shown, a deputy marshal appointed for a court . . . may be assigned temporarily to assist other judicial departments or assist with court administration as needed.”

The general public may not understand that in the Eighth Judicial District Court, we have several types of security personnel. We have judicial marshals, who are appointed by many of the judges, report directly to their judge, and are responsible for the safety and security of persons and property in and around their specific courtrooms. We also have administrative marshals, who are responsible for the safety and security of persons and property in and around the RJC or family court, as assigned. The administrative marshals are often assigned to assist in the individual departments, to provide additional safety and security in individual courtrooms, or elsewhere as necessary.

Additionally, the Eighth Judicial District Court has a contract with a third-party security organization, through which we have a number of court security officers (CSOs) who assist at the gates and assist in the departments and throughout the buildings as necessary. It is the duty and responsibility of each of these individuals to provide each person in the courthouses with safety and security. They are all well trained and do a fabulous job.

With regard to the incident that took place on January 3, 2024, in Judge Holthus’ courtroom, her marshal was present, and, in fact, just prior to the incident, had moved behind the defendant, (who was out of custody) to be able to effectuate a remand. There was also a corrections officer from Clark County Detention Center (CCDC) in the courtroom because she had some in-custody defendants on the calendar. The defendant suddenly and unexpectedly vaulted over the defense table, ran, and jumped straight at the judge. The marshal did everything in his power to get to the defendant before he went over the bench, but the defendant was simply too fast. The corrections officer, the law clerk, and others, assisted and were successful in subduing the defendant and taking him into custody.

Although we believe that the marshal, the corrections officer, and everyone else involved did all that they could do, it would be irresponsible for us to not re-evaluate whether there is something more that we can do to create a “more” safe and secure environment within the court. Within 24 hours of this event, we had communicated with, and we are currently working with, Clark County to try to secure funding and approval for additional court marshals. We hired additional CSOs to provide additional security. We are working with Clark County and Real Property Management to modify some of the judicial benches in the court, to make it more difficult for someone to vault over. We are also looking at various other security measures to try to avoid something like this happening again.

Rest assured, judges, staff, attorneys, and the public are safe and secure in our courthouses. We have been and are doing all that we can to make sure that an incident like this will not happen again. We continue to work with our security experts, but if the bar membership has helpful suggestions or recommendations, please email them to my department at securitysuggestions@clarkcountycourts.us.

About the author

Chief Judge Jerry Wiese serves in Department 30 of the Eighth Judicial District Court bench. Since taking the bench in January of 2011, Judge Wiese has presided over numerous trials, both civil and criminal, and has presided over many settlement conferences. He coordinates the Judicial Settlement Conference Program and presides over the Medical Malpractice Sweeps. He was elected Chief Judge by his peers and has served as the Chief Judge of the district court since July 2022.

About the article

© 2024 Clark County Bar Association (CCBA). All rights reserved. No reproduction of any portion of this issue is allowed without written permission from the publisher. Editorial policy available upon request.

This article was originally published in the Communiqué (Feb. 2024), the official publication of the Clark County Bar Association. See https://clarkcountybar.org/about/member-benefits/communique-2024/communique-feb-2024/.

The articles and advertisements appearing in Communiqué magazine do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the CCBA, the CCBA Publications Committee, the editorial board, or the other authors. All legal and other issues discussed are not for the purpose of answering specific legal questions. Attorneys and others are strongly advised to independently research all issues.

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