Las Vegas Sun

December 10, 2016

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Plan designed to ease morning lines at Regional Justice Center

Attorneys paying annual fee, jurors would use express entrance under proposal

Image

Sam Morris

A crowd lines up for the elevators while others exit at the Regional Justice Center.

Map of Clark County Regional Justice Center‎

Clark County Regional Justice Center‎

200 Lewis Ave, Las Vegas

Monday morning at the Regional Justice Center is the usual bustle of chaos as hundreds of people — citizens reporting for jury duty, attorneys, witnesses, plaintiffs and defendants — shuffle in a long line waiting to go through metal scanners upon entering the building.

By 2 p.m., though, much of the courthouse is quiet. Seven marshals operate two scanners for a handful of people; a line of 10 people waits to pay parking tickets and other fines; of 20 rooms reserved for District Court hearings, just eight are in operation, with one court marshal assigned to each courtroom.

The morning wait in line is not pleasant, especially for people pressed to make it to court at a certain time. A few blocks away in the Clark County Government Center, a question arises: Is the problem serious enough to force the hiring of more marshals?

Marshals — they no longer are called bailiffs — work in courtrooms as security. They also operate the front-entrance magnetometers (metal detectors) and perform numerous other services. Each of the courthouse’s 32 judges is assigned a judicial marshal; an additional 18 are administrative marshals. The court also employs 10 part-time marshals.

According to county documents, however, the court is finding it difficult to hire qualified part-timers. At the same time, the court reasons in backup documents, it doesn’t have the necessary number of marshals to fill in when people call in sick or are on leave and have other absences.

So court administrators will ask county commissioners today to consider a multipronged approach that will, among other things, eliminate 10 part-time marshals to allow the hiring of three full-timers, and shift five vacant but funded positions from other Clark County departments to the court to become five more marshal positions.

With the increased staffing, the court would open the long-closed south entrance to the courthouse. That entrance would be only used by attorneys, who would pay $150 annually for the speedier entry, and jurors.

The proposal is mostly cost-neutral — Clark County would spend a relatively small amount to make the changes. The Sun reached a marshals supervisor who had not heard about the proposals; Chief Judge Jennifer Togliatti could not immediately be reached for comment.

Although most of the proposal also appears to sit well with county commissioners, one major detail isn’t going over so well.

Since 2007, Clark County government has lost about 24 percent of its workforce because of budget cuts, layoffs, buyouts and attrition. With that in mind, there isn’t an appetite right now, Commissioner Tom Collins said, to decrease the county workforce by five more positions.

“Are we going to give up vacant spots from public works or parks? Hell no,” Collins said.

He then launched a familiar argument for the Legislature to figure out ways to add more funding to the 8th Judicial Court so that “local government and the courts don’t have to get into this kind of dustup anymore.”

Instead of taking those positions from the county, Collins said, the courts should be able to figure out how to shift their own staffing to fill the five marshal positions needed to operate the southern entrance.

“They can figure out another way within their budget, within their resources, to add those five positions,” Collins said.

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