SHREVEPORT, La. – It is clear the chief district judge has the authority to set courthouse security measures, and as such an order a DeSoto district judge put in place last fall stands unless he’s challenged in court, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal concluded in a ruling released Wednesday.
The ruling results from a dispute between Chief Judge Charles Adams, District Attorney Gary Evans and the DeSoto Parish Police Jury over who has authority over security at the DeSoto Parish Courthouse.
Evans and the Police Jury challenged a court order from Adams in September that stopped the Police Jury from moving the court bailiffs’ offices on the second floor of the courthouse to make room for an office for the district attorney to use during court proceedings.
In response, Adams issued a court order saying moving the bailiffs’ offices was a security concern and was being done over the objections of the district judges. Even though the 100-plus year-old courthouse has been renovated, its original design still left two entrances to the courtroom. About eight years ago, one of the entrances was designated for the public and the other was secured by a bailiff for restricted access by the judges and criminal defendants in the sheriff’s custody.
Reallocating the bailiff’s office to the D.A. would open it to public use and render the courtroom entrance unsecured, the judge said in his order.
Adams cited a portion of the Louisiana Supreme Court’s Uniform Rules for District Courts that states, in part, “Security procedures shall be approved by the chief judge of the district court or other court.”
Police Juror Thomas Jones was particularly vocal at Police Jury meetings about Adams’ order, citing attorney general opinions stating the courthouse, thus security, is the parish governing body’s responsibility. He often said Adams’ order was “not worth the paper it is written on.”
The Police Jury backed out of the dispute once Adams issued the court order, with President Reggie Roe saying no changes would be made to office space on the courtroom floor without the judge’s approval. However, the Police Jury joined the D.A. in seeking a ruling on the matter from the 2nd Circuit.
The appellate court declined to take any action, except for sending the issue back to DeSoto Parish, because other than seeking a ruling from the 2nd Circuit on Adams order, there has been no court action filed by the D.A. or Police Jury on the matter.
“The (Louisiana Supreme Court) has made clear that it intends for the chief judge of a district court to have administrative authority regarding courthouse security measures. In this case, Judge Adams has invoked that authority in issuing the subject order. The propriety of such an order is subject to challenge based on the particular facts of the case. Here, however, there has been no record developed – no evidence, no findings of fact – and thus there is nothing for this court to review. We agree with Chief Judge Adams’ argument that the proper means for the appellants to challenge the subject order is for them to file an action for declaratory judgment, whereupon a proper record can be developed,” the court ruled.