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Iowa Supreme Court Order’s Impact On County Courthouses

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ADEL, Iowa -- The security screening process could become the new normal at courthouses across Iowa.  "They hold divorce hearings in these places. There`s small claims and civil lawsuits. It's an area that can become highly volatile.," said Dallas County Chief Deputy Jail Administrator Doug Lande.

Dallas County has used security screenings since 2008 but on Monday an Iowa Supreme Court order from Chief Justice Mark Cady ordered, "That all weapons are prohibited from courtrooms, court controlled spaces and public areas of courthouses and other justice centers occupied by the court system."  Lande said the security measures have paid off, "We've recovered a lot of sharp knives and firearms on people before."

Marion County, while they do have a sign advising people of no weapons, is one of twenty-seven in Iowa without a ban on weapons inside the courthouse.  Marion County Attorney Ed Bull believes the order helps with confusion. "I think Justice Cady's order bringing uniformity to all 99 counties makes sense."

The order could also help with what seems to be a hodgepodge of courthouse security across the state.  Lande said, "I asked them how they are providing security now and it was everything from janitors watching cameras to no cameras."

The order is also about safety. "Stopping any threat at the door instead of that threat being allowed on your floors of the courthouse," said Lande.

Some are concerned about aging courthouses not retrofitted for such measures.  "Some courthouses in the state won't have the ability to have that equipment inside the doorway," added Lande.

With high-profile cases, Marion County has called on security measures and will rely on that experience going forward.  "We have had law enforcement use handheld metal detectors to screen people going into the courthouse so we have the technology when we need it," said Bull.

The X-ray machine cost Dallas County $26,000, the metal detector was another $6,000.  The safety cost could be one reason Dallas County is just one of ten in the state to offer airport style security.  Lande said, "I'm sure as this becomes more of a topic that these counties should suggest to the state, is there some funding?"

Chief Justice Cady's order does not impact peace officers and there is no specific order on the level of security that needs to be provided. Handheld screening wands can cost under $200 dollars.

The Iowa Firearms Coalition isn't happy with the ban.  The organization released a statement today saying its. "About more than just defending iowans' second amendment rights. it's about keeping judicial overreach in check, keeping judicial activism out of Iowa, and keeping judges from legislating from the bench."

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