Homeless have King County Courthouse workers feeling unsafe
Homelessness is an issue that’s gripping the state, and of course, most predominately here in Seattle.
Now, a King County judge is sounding the alarm about what he and his fellow coworkers have to deal with on a regular basis. The surrounding homelessness, drug abuse, and assaults are causing many to feel unsafe on their way to the courthouse on 3rd Avenue.
“This is a concern that’s shared by the entire bench. It’s a reflection I think of the location of the courthouse,” Superior Court Judge Sean O’Donnell told KIRO Radio. “We are surrounded by people in crisis and you have conflicts with members of the public who have to access the court for their case, to do their civic duty, or maybe they’re coming here to work.”
“It can be everything from being yelled at, harassed, assaulted, exposed to, spit on. They have to navigate human waste, feces, urination. They have to navigate needles, they have to navigate tents.”
His own Bailiff, Rianne Rubright, experiences it on a regular basis.
“This morning, perfect example, I had someone chase me down the street and come up and try to talk to me. It was small talk, it wasn’t harmful or anything, but I don’t think he had pants on,” she said. “It kind of scared me a little bit.”
Judge O’Donnell says it’s a concern not just for staff safety, but also a threat to the criminal justice system, because staffers who have to deal with something like that or worse are shaken by the time they get to work, and could make a mistake.
O’Donnell says it’s an even larger concern with jurors coming to the courthouse experiencing the same.
“I couldn’t think of a worse circumstance, if a juror is being chased over lunch, and then you’re asking them to decide an incredibly important decision when maybe someone’s liberty is at stake, or maybe it’s the fate of a business. It’s a real issue.”
Dear Seattle: A typical morning in front of the King County Courthouse.
— Judge Sean P. O’Donnell (@odonnell4judge) March 15, 2019
Dear Seattle: today’s “welcome” to King County Superior Court.
I hope things can get better for all involved. pic.twitter.com/4DYXyFMI5o
— Judge Sean P. O’Donnell (@odonnell4judge) March 11, 2019