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Judges want a deputy in courtroom; more staff not in county budget

Judges in Southeast District Court want Stutsman County Sheriff Chad Kaiser to provide security in the courtrooms three days a week, a request that may require hiring one or two more deputies. But where the money will come to pay for them isn't k...

Judges in Southeast District Court want Stutsman County Sheriff Chad Kaiser to provide security in the courtrooms three days a week, a request that may require hiring one or two more deputies. But where the money will come to pay for them isn’t known.

Judges Troy LeFevre and Cherie Clark asked Kaiser in October to provide a deputy or deputies for courtroom security on master calendar days. Kaiser brought the request to the County Commission in November because he was concerned about how to fund one or two new deputies to provide the security on court days. The commission directed Kaiser to ask for a letter from the judges requesting the additional courtroom security.

LeFevre said to the Stutsman County Commission at its Tuesday meeting that master calendar days are from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Matters handled on master calendar days are generally short items like initial court appearance for criminal cases, small claims and child support cases.

Southeast District Chief Judge Daniel Narum said on these court days there are a wide variety of people in the courtroom. He said under North Dakota Century Code, the county sheriff is required to attend all district court proceedings.

Kaiser said he was aware of the law when he was elected sheriff. He said at that time the presiding judge for Stutsman County didn’t want the sheriff or a deputy in courtrooms everytime court was in session. Kaiser said the arrangement he worked out was if a judge felt more security was needed for a case, the judge would ask the sheriff for a deputy to be in the courtroom.

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"Where are we going to come up with that money?
Stutsman MARK KLOSE County , Commission chairman

Kaiser said Tuesday that he would need to hire one or two more deputies to have a deputy in a courtroom on master calendar days. He estimated it costs about $75,000 annually for a deputy. He said the new deputy or deputies would not just work courtroom security. The new hire would work full time as a regular deputy. One deputy would cover both courtrooms at the Stutsman County Courthouse.

“I need more road deputies as well,” he said.

Kaiser said he would probably need to hire two deputies so he would have enough personnel to cover days off, vacation or sick time.

County Commission Chairman Mark Klose said the problem is the county has already set its budget for 2018 and there are no additional sources of funding to pay for additional deputies. He said the commission supports making sure the county is complying with state law, but funding is a challenge.

“Where are we going to come up with that money?” he said.

Narum said the court system also doesn’t have additional funds to help cover the cost of hiring a new deputy.

Narum said while he understands the budget constraints, judges, court personnel and the public need to be safe while in a courtroom. He said courtrooms are often emotionally charged.

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“It is common for participants or their supporters to become heated,” he said.

Narum said in his experience the presence of a law enforcement officer in the courtroom is important to keeping the courtroom safe.

He also said if there is a sheriff’s deputy in one of the three courtrooms in the Stutsman County Courthouse, there is a metal detector available for the deputy to use to screen people entering the courtroom.

“Having a deputy operate the metal detector could prevent weapons of any kind from entering the courtroom,” Narum said.

Narum said he knew of two instances where firearms were smuggled into courtrooms in North Dakota. In one, a judge was shot and severely wounded.

The commission took no action Tuesday.

colson@jamestownsun.com

(701) 952-8454

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