2 July 14

Personal safety in courtrooms, from an Instructor and lawyer who works in one regularly:

Most of us don’t spend much time in courtrooms. That includes even most lawyers. However, like hospital emergency rooms, courtrooms are dangerous places, and for the same reason. You won’t find happy people in either place!

Sometimes, litigants, and others, are so unhappy, they become unstable, irrational, and dangerous.

As with most ERs, courtroom “security” may be competent, and it may not!

So, here is some good advice, from the mouth of one who has been in court, nearly every day, for the past forty years. It is intended for lawyers, judges, associates, clerks, witnesses, observers, et al:

1. Don’t get between deputies and people they have “in-custody.” Don’t even get close to them. Becoming a hostage is a really bad career-move!

2. When you hear loud/angry voices, in the courtroom or in the hallway, go the other way! Don’t worry about what they’re saying. Just get out of there!

3. When deputies show-up at the courtroom in numbers beyond what is for normal for “in-custody” situations, it is a good time to leave. They might well know of an indigenous high threat-level that is not “public knowledge.”

4. It is good lawyering, and good sense, to be continuously aware of as much of the courtroom as possible, including the gallery where “observers” sit. Anything there that appears to be a lit fuse suggests a good time to leave the courtroom.

5. Don’t locate yourself between the podium and the door. When someone, defendant or otherwise, decides to make a rapid, unscheduled exit, no benefit attaches to blocking his path, nor the path of deputies who will be chasing him!

6. Don’t leave your briefcase anywhere near “in-custody” people. Reasons are obvious and lengthy.

7. Keep in mind the danger of wearing a tie. It is a silk-strong noose around your neck, with a long, convenient handle for anyone to grab! I take mine off the moment I get up to leave. Most police don’t wears ties at all. The ones who still do, wear “safety-ties.”

8. The most dangerous time to be in court is during anything related to child-custody, child-support, restraining orders, alimony, and most other areas of “family-law.” Be especially alert! Don’t be there at all unless absolutely necessary.

9. Actually, risk is much lower during high-profile, criminal cases! In just about all such instances, both guilty and non-guilty parties tend to be on their best behavior!

10. Overcome natural curiosity! When the person at the podium, defendant or witness, appears to be irrational/unstable/insane, he probably is! You can always say you suddenly needed to find a bathroom!

Comment: Any place where people are in high emotional states, from rock-concerts, to family reunions, to ERs, to honky-tonk bars, to courtrooms, are good places not to be!

When you must be in one of these places, don’t stay any longer than necessary, and be alert while there. When you see things going in the toilet, get out, as fast as you can. Curiosity can be fatal!

“Minding other people’s business seems to be high tone
I’ve got all I can do just minding my own.”

Hank Williams Sr, from the song, Mind Your Own Business