Improved courthouse security sought

MARQUETTE – Judges are recommending the Marquette County Board reconsider improvements to security at the Marquette County Courthouse, including limiting the number of entrances and screening those entering the building for weapons.

The request was made to the county board in an April 25 letter written by Marquette County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Mazzuchi, which was signed by Mazzuchi and circuit court Judge Thomas Solka, district court judges Dennis Girard and Roger Kangas and probate court Judge Cheryl Hill.

The county board is scheduled to consider the letter from the judges as an informational item at its regular meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

The five judges met recently to review and discuss ongoing concerns with courthouse security, deciding unanimously to recommend the county board limit the number of courthouse entrances to two and require weapons screening.

In 1998 and 2006, the judges recommended various security measures to the board, including reducing the number of entrances. Mazzuchi said “tragic events” of courthouse and other violence nationally prompted the judges to renew their request.

“This recommendation is not made lightly. We understand that security measures can present inconvenience to the vast majority of people who use the courthouse without incident,” Mazzuchi wrote. “Please understand that these measures are not recommended for the benefit of the judges. Our primary focus is offering a secure environment for litigants, witnesses, visitors and court and courthouse employees.”

Recently, public access was reduced at the federal building in Marquette by blocking a stairwell leading to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court and U.S. District Court.

Mazzuchi said the structure of the county courthouse presents challenges to limiting entrances to the building. The courthouse is connected to the courthouse annex and services are provided in the complex beyond courts.

Offices of the county clerk, treasurer and register of deeds are located in the courthouse, along with those of the county administrator, prosecutor and friend of the court situated in the connected annex. Aging services, building codes and equalization are also located in the courthouse complex.

“We also emphasize that we appreciate the work of the sheriff’s deputies who help provide security for the courts,” Mazzuchi wrote. “Even with their help, however, it is difficult to regulate security effectively without weapons screening at limited entrances to the facility.”

Mazzuchi said the judges recognize adopting the measures would not be without cost.

“We also understand that we are not alone in our concern for the public safety; we trust the board shares our concern,” Mazzuchi wrote. “In the past, it appears that the board has weighed the various factors and determined that it would not reduce the number of entrances or institute screening.”

Mazzuchi said if the board is willing to revisit the issue, the judges would like to discuss possible means for making the improvements.

In a recent memo to county administrator Scott Erbisch, Solka asked various county personnel to participate in reactivating a courthouse security committee. Mazzuchi said the committee might be an appropriate forum to discuss the improved security measures and welcomed participation by county commissioners.

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His email address is