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March 1, 2018
Objections raised to putting sheriffs in charge of courthouse security

The Judicial Branch and the state’s court administrators have taken exception to an amendment to a Constitution Revision Commission proposal that would put the county sheriffs in charge of courthouse security.

Proposal 26, as originally filed by Commissioner Belinda Keiser, amends Art. IV, §4, to create an Office of Domestic Security and Counter-Terrorism within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. However, CRC Commissioner and Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco successfully offered an amendment when the proposal was heard in the Local Government Committee to include language specifying that sheriffs have complete, autonomous authority over courthouses.

P-26, with the amendment, cleared Local Government 4-3 and is headed to the full CRC.

At the CRC’s recent public hearing in Ft. Lauderdale, 17th Circuit Chief Judge Jack Tuter said the “entire judicial branch,” including the trial court administrators, oppose the amendment.

“We all ask you all to redact, vacate, or amend that language and take it out,” Tuter said. “We don’t think it is necessary at all. Security in our courthouses are a collaborative effort between the county commission, the chief judge, and the sheriff in each county. We have a great working relationship with our sheriff here in Broward County and to give the sheriff complete autonomy over a courthouse where the chief judge has a lot of responsibilities under the Rules of Judicial Administration, we think is not appropriate.”

The Second District Court of Appeal has upheld a chief judge’s ability to compel the sheriffs to provide security beyond the “literal four corners of a courtroom wherein sessions of court take place” to include all court facilities and direct how the sheriffs must carry out the function of providing security.

[Revised: 03-21-2018]