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In re Courthouse Security

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

August 14, 2019

IN RE: COURTHOUSE SECURITY

          Appealed from the Forty Second Judicial District Court for the Parish of DeSoto, Louisiana Trial Court No. M1064 Honorable Charles Blaylock Adams, Judge.

          KENNETH P. HAINES JODY TODD BENSON COUNSEL FOR 1ST APPELLANT DESOTO PARISH POLICE JURY

          KENNETH P. HAINES COUNSEL FOR 2ND APPELLANT GARY V. EVANS, DISTRICT ATTORNEY

          Before MOORE, GARRETT, and STONE, JJ.

          STONE, J.

         This is a dispute between Judge Charles Adams, Chief Judge of the 42nd Judicial District Court ("JDC"), on one side, and the DeSoto Parish district attorney and police jury (collectively, the "appellants"), on the other side. The police jury allegedly owns the 42nd JDC courthouse. The following narrative is taken from the briefs.

         The upstairs courtroom in the 42nd JDC courthouse has two entrances. For the last eight years or so, one of the entrances has been secured by the posting of bailiffs there. During that time, the secure entrance has been used as the judges' primary entrance and as the entrance through which criminal defendants in the sheriff's custody are brought into the courtroom. The court's bailiffs occupied two offices near the secure entrance.

         Recently, the police jury reallocated these offices to the district attorney's office, which, according to Chief Judge Adams, will use these offices for meetings with witnesses and victims (who do not have security clearance). The police jury relies on La. R.S. 33:4713 and 33:4715 as authority for doing so. In relevant part, La. R.S. 47:13 provides:

A. Each parish shall provide and bear the expense of a suitable building and requisite furniture for the sitting of the district and circuit courts and such offices, furniture, and equipment as may be needed by the clerks and recorders of the parish for the proper conduct of their offices and shall provide such other offices as may be needed by the sheriffs of these courts and by the tax collectors and assessors of the parish and shall provide the necessary heat and illumination therefor.

La. R.S. 47:15, in full, states:

The police jury of each parish shall provide a good and sufficient court-house, with rooms for jurors, and a good and sufficient jail, at such place as they may deem most convenient for the parish at large, provided that when the seat of justice is established by law, they shall not have power to remove it.

         Chief Judge Adams asserts that this action by the police jury effectively rendered the courtroom entrance unsecured. Pursuant to Uniform Rules for District Courts, Rule 5.2, Chief Judge Adams issued an "Order As to Courthouse Security" that "enjoined" the police jury from: (1) implementing its resolution to remove the court's bailiffs from the aforementioned offices; and (2) re-allocating the probation office space on the west side of the courtroom…without the approval of the Chief Judge."

Rule 5.2 states:
The sheriff or his or her designated deputy shall provide security for the courtrooms, chambers, judicial offices, and hallways within the courthouse. Security procedures shall be approved by the chief judge of ...

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