PORTLAND (AP) – Maine court officials are focusing on safety concerns following a courtroom shooting in Atlanta and the murders of the husband and mother of a federal judge in Chicago.

“We all know it could happen here, and it could happen at any time,” Chief Justice Leigh Saufley said. “To know that people are focusing on judges’ families is really chilling.”

Safety planning will take up a large part of a regularly scheduled meeting of the state’s trial court judges, said Saufley, who noted that the state’s judicial community has been shaken by the recent killings in Atlanta and Chicago.

Courtroom security remains at a low level in Maine, which has seen little in the way of violence directed at judges or other court officials. Because of tight budgets, security officers in Maine’s state courts only occasionally screen for weapons.

A bill before the Legislature to ban guns for all but law enforcement officers would be a first step toward making the courts safer, said state Sen. Barry Hobbins, D-Saco, co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee. At present, it is not illegal for someone with a concealed weapons permit to bring a gun to court.

“The time has come to take these issues seriously,” Hobbins said. “The state of Maine has got to step up to the plate to find adequate funding.”

Saufley noted that the dismissal of a self-filed malpractice lawsuit in Chicago that triggered the killings of U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow’s husband and mother was a routine decision in a typical case.

“That is the kind of decision that judges in Maine make every single day,” Saufley said. “You have to know that someday, someone is going to have this type of reaction.”

Saufley said the incidents in Atlanta and Chicago, in which a total of five people were killed, should serve as a wake-up call.

“There are angry people here in Maine, and this could happen here,” she said.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.