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Hennepin Co. Judge Demands More Courtroom Security

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Hennepin County judge wants more security in the courtroom. Until he gets it, Judge Lloyd Zimmerman says he won’t hear cases at three suburban courthouses.

It may be some time before his concerns can be addressed.

“It’s an issue that’s been on everybody’s plate for a long time,” said Chief Judge James Swenson, who presides over courts at the Hennepin County Government Center that have weapon screening, and three suburban locations that don’t.

Just weeks after a shooting incident in a St. Louis County courthouse, Swenson says most judges favor stronger security measures.

“They’re concerned with participants in court,” he said, “and they’re concerned with themselves. It’s not just about judges.”

In fact, an extra deputy was added at Brookdale last year, but Judge Lloyd Zimmerman wants more, saying he won’t work at the Brookdale, Southdale or Ridgedale courthouses until they get screening.

In an email, Zimmerman told colleagues, “I’m tired of driving to Brookdale, the courtroom everyone who knows agrees is the most likely place for a shooting or violence to occur, and not know whether I will be carried out in a body bag that day.”

“We did meet with county representatives on Tuesday,” said Swenson. “We did share the concerns of my colleague.”

However, screening takes money, for equipment, and the people to run it. So, they’re looking at a 16-week study to assess their needs. The consultants might recommend metal detectors at all courthouses, or even moving all domestic cases, which are the most volatile, to the Government Center downtown.

“These are highly nuanced decisions,” said Swenson, “that involve the interests of all sorts of justice partners.”

The study would cost $77,000. If it goes forward, they wouldn’t have long-term recommendations until mid-summer.

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