Courthouse Workers Nervous Anti-Government Rhetoric Renews Interest In Beefing Up Security

Rising anti-government sentiment here. Angry militias in Montana. A courthouse shooting in Seattle.

It’s enough to make Kootenai County courthouse workers nervous.

In fact, it’s sparking renewed efforts to increase courthouse security.

If the courthouse isn’t safe, “the public is really who’s at risk,” said District Court Judge James Judd.

Thursday he resurrected a defunct courthouse security committee. He hopes the group will recommend new security measures for the courthouse before the next budget session begins this summer.

Judd and other law enforcement officers have pushed for years for greater security. They even convinced officials last fall to install a metal detector outside courtrooms.

Recent incidents here and in neighboring states, however, have brought the issue back to the forefront.

Earlier this month a Kirkland, Wash., man shot and killed three women in Seattle’s King County Courthouse.

The next day, seven men with militia ties - some carrying weapons - were arrested outside a Montana courthouse. Authorities suspected they were plotting to kidnap public officials.

The anti-government rhetoric here hasn’t reached the fever pitch it has in Montana. In addition, most of the revolutionaries in Coeur d’Alene’s paper war aren’t carrying weapons.

It’s all part of a continuum and “there’s growing hostility,” said Commissioner Bob Macdonald.”

Recorders here lately have blocked several people from filing unusual “grudge” documents against elected officials. Based on archaic law, they usually have no legal basis, but can create credit hassles.

“We have a few angry people who come in and they’re very insistent,” said Sheryl Reed, chief of the recorder’s office.

Kootenai County Clerk Tom Taggart said most of this area’s antigovernment supporters are longtime acquaintances “and they aren’t going to hurt anyone.” However, as their efforts are thwarted, he worries many will make good on veiled threats of violence.

County Treasurer Jeanine Ashcraft, who has been the recipient of such threats recently, is not worried.

“People who sit in front of a computer and produce mail by the pound don’t concern me,” she said.

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