The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office learned Wednesday the Second District Court of Appeal (DCA) denied the agency’s petition to review an administrative order dictating responsibility related to the security of court facilities.
The decision follows a lengthy review of the order, issued by the 12th Judicial Circuit’s chief judge, telling the sheriff’s office it is responsible for providing security at specific court-related facilities and to search citizens entering those facilities for firearms. The order was issued in March, only days after Senator Greg Stuebe was stopped when he tried to enter the clerk’s office while armed. With concerns related to citizen’s constitutional rights as well as the agency’s exposure to personal liability for restricting access to non-court public government buildings, the sheriff’s office removed deputies from three Sarasota County locations including two Clerk of Court offices and the Criminal Justice Center in downtown Sarasota.
Due to the impasse between Sheriff Knight and the judiciary, the agency’s general counsel filed a petition for the DCA to review the order to seek clarification as to whether the chief judge has the authority to dictate security measures including stopping citizens from carrying weapons and firearms into buildings other than courthouses. In the order received today, the DCA stated the chief judge can direct security measures in court facilities however, decisions regarding the procedures, techniques, protocols, personnel, and equipment to implement such security is at the Sheriff’s discretion.
Sheriff Knight is disappointed in the decision of the DCA but respects the court’s directive. As stated and argued before the DCA, the sheriff’s office takes its role of protecting citizens while balancing their constitutional rights very seriously; as is evident by the more than 5.5 million dollars spent annually on the security of Sarasota County court facilities.
Beyond today’s denial, Sheriff Knight’s concerns remain that the court did not address the issue related to Florida State Statute 790.06 and the constitutional rights of citizens. As Judge Badalamenti stated in his concurring opinion, “All in all, the concerns raised by the Sheriff in his petition are issues for Sarasota County and our State’s legislature to ferret out, not the courts.” Sheriff Knight agrees and urges law makers to address this issue immediately.
“While this ruling helps clarify the responsibilities of local sheriff’s offices, it still fails to address the biggest concern I have which is the rights of our citizens,” explains Sheriff Knight. “I have already spoken with Senator Stuebe and expressed to him Judge Badalamenti’s comments regarding the legislature’s need to act. I am pleased to say Senator Stuebe recognizes this and has agreed to move this issue through the legislature as expeditiously as possible. My staff is currently reaching out to personnel from court administration to provide a workable solution to courthouse safety and the protection of constitutional liberties.”