For years, the Marshals at the Regional Justice Center have served the public who for one reason or another have had to visit the building, to attend court or conduct whatever business they may have had there.
The Las Vegas Tribune has dedicated, on several occasions, much space to recognizing their professionalism and dedication while protecting the building, and the judges as well as the employees and visitors, realizing that not all individuals attending court are necessarily criminals.
Lately, the number of incidents of incivility and disrespect by some of the Marshals in the Courthouse has been increasing to the point that some attorneys are skeptical about having to be there, and concerned when they have no way to avoid a trip to the Regional Justice Center.
Many long-time well respected attorneys talking to the Las Vegas Tribune have experienced unprofessional and disrespectful treatment when entering the building.
One attorney stated that on November 1st of last year, while on line at the attorney’s scanner, one Marshal committed battery upon him.
“I placed my cell phone and my keys on the scanner and waited for the person in front of me to be scanned when I was [poked by the wand of] a red-headed Marshal,” an attorney explained.
“The Marshal used his wand to poke the right side of my suit coat and me. He asked what was [it] I had in my pocket, and when I pulled the book out, he made me put it through the scanner again.”
One attorney explained that he has coming to court all the time with a notebook in his pocket (only paper, no metal) and never had a problem.
Another well-known attorney that heard the complaint added that he has had two encounters with the same rude Marshal.
A third attorney, one of the most high profile attorneys in the community, told the Las Vegas Tribune that a Marshal blocked him from going through the scanner by opening his arms in front of him.
In an unrelated case, an attorney was confronted by a Marshal and a second Marshal standing to his right committed battery by “shoving” the officer of the court.
Another Marshal had a confrontation with a judge’s judicial executive assistant and grabbed her badge from the chain tied to her waist. She grabbed it back and left the area.
Some attorneys have spent $250 with the Bar Association on a badge issued by the Bar, and went through a background check as well, to make entering the Regional Justice Center easier; now the badges have been recalled and the Bar refuses to give the money paid for them back.
Some of those attorneys are wondering why the judges do not intervene in the situation and take a stand, considering that their non-involved attitude makes it more difficult for them when they run for reelection to get campaign contributions from those mistreated attorneys.
A call to Chief Judge Jennifer Togliatti, asking her to comment on the matter, was not immediately returned and it is possible that she could be very busy because in all fairness Judge Togliatti always had returned telephone calls from the Las Vegas Tribune and has always maintained a very good communication with the newspaper and its executives.
Not all two hundred Marshals are rude and unprofessional; those who are giving a bad name to their organization must realize that this newspaper has their names, which were given to a court spokesperson but not published in this article out of respect for all those who are honest and professional and treat everyone with dignity.
“Those novice marshals may not be familiar with the Las Vegas Tribune, but they ought to be told that this newspaper does not bluff; we tell the story as it really is and we do not take sides with anyone,” stated Maramis Choufani, the Las Vegas Tribune’s Managing Editor.
“The newspaper withheld the names of those abusive marshals out of respect for the court, for Chief Judge Jennifer Togliatti and all the other marshals who know how to treat people with respect and dignity. But if the problem continues, we will start publishing the names of the culprits,” Choufani said.
A telephone call to Bob Bennet was returned by the court spokesperson, Mary Ann Price, who sent a written statement.
Court records shows that each month, around 120,000 people pass through security screening at the Regional Justice Center (RJC). That’s an average of around 6,000 visitors a day. That number can go as high as 8,000 people a day who pass through security screening.
Many have experienced the long lines at the RJC.
The spokesperson for the Regional Justice Center told us, “We are highly aware of the issue and of the immense difficulties and frustration it presents to attorneys and the public. We are taking action to provide different access for attorneys and jurors that will alleviate the congestion at the front gate.”
“Courthouse visitor safety is of paramount importance; but, courtesy and professionalism are also very important,” one of our sources told us. “It is our security policy to treat all those who enter the courthouse with respect and dignity. Recently, we received a few specific complaints regarding security personnel. If those entering the courthouse have an experience that does not meet our policy of respect and dignity, they are encouraged to submit a complaint in the administrative office on the second floor of the RJC. All complaints are investigated and appropriate personnel action is taken upon completion, if appropriate,” the spokesperson stated. “We have at the same time been engaged in an effort to increase marshal staffing and reconfigure the front gate, while maintaining coverage at the entrance to ensure everyone’s safety. We appreciate everyone’s patience while we work though the issues to keep the courthouse secure and accessible.”
During a twenty-minute telephone call with the court spokesperson, the issue of the long lines was addressed and the court assured this reporter that measurements are being taken “as we speak” to end those lines. “We are all aware of the problem and we are working on it; trust me,” stated the court spokesperson.
Monday was a nice day, but sometimes it is raining or too cold or too hot for those people to be out there waiting to go to court — some of them even three hours late.
On Monday, at 6:30 in the morning, forty-five minutes before the court doors open, the line was one block long; three hours later, the line went up to Bonneville Street.
We were told that the judges, in all courts, are aware of the issue even if they have their own entrance and their own elevators for security purposes, and they have been very understanding in some cases when the person shows up late to court.
Las Vegas Tribune is planning to bring the issue in front of the county commissioners at the next commission meeting.