SEATTLE (CN) – Citing “constant reports of assaults,” Presiding Judge James Rogers closed the main entrance to the King County Courthouse in Seattle Tuesday.
The closure will remain in place until Jan. 1 to give officials time to address new security plans.
“The safety conditions at the Third Avenue entrance to the courthouse have deteriorated, jeopardizing the public safety of any attempting to enter or leave,” the judge’s order states. “This Court receives constant reports of assault committed against litigants, jurors, attorneys, members of the public, and employees. The safety conditions have the effect of discouraging and denying access and therefore justice to all who would seek it from the Court. It discourages jury service.”
The closure comes one week after a defense attorney’s brutal attack was caught on tape by the court’s security camera. Footage showed a man punch the attorney in the back of his head, throw him into a fire hydrant and onto the street. The man also punched a city bus driver who ran to help the attorney before a deputy exited the courthouse and subdued the assailant with a Taser.
According to police reports, the man was arrested for felony assault and has been arrested five times on the same block as the courthouse, including two times for assault at an emergency shelter across the street.
“It’s been getting more and more dangerous. I watch my back,” Rogers told local affiliate Q13 Fox News.
King County Council Chair Rod Dembowski plans to introduce emergency legislation for funding to immediately enhance safety around the courthouse, he said in a statement.
“I support the Superior Court’s decision to take aggressive action to protect the public and our county employees who work in and near the King County Courthouse,” Dembowski said.