I was fortunate enough to have recently talked and exchanged a few professional emails with Edward M. Templeman of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AOUSC) on the topic of court security. When I approached him with the idea of conducting a Q&A session about court security for the readers of my blog he graciously agreed.
As way of background, Mr. Templeman has been Chief of the Court Security Office of the AOUSC since July 2003. He has held a variety of supervisory security positions in the federal government in the past 25 years. He was a sworn Alexandria, Virginia police official and deputy director of the Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Academy before his federal service. He holds a MS in the Administration of Justice from The American University; a BA in Political Science from the University of South Carolina; and a Professional Certificate in Occupational Safety/Health Management from the University of California, Irvine. He is a Certified Protection Professional (CPP) by ASIS International, and is a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Police Executive Research Forum. In late 2007 he participated in the American Bar Association’s “Rule of Law Initiative” - traveling to, and consulting with, the Bahraini Ministry of Justice on the balance between openness and security in its courts.
Q: What are the responsibilities of your Office in general?
Because some readers may not be familiar with the AOUSC, let’s start with a description of what it does, and then look at the responsibilities of the Court Security Office. Most AOUSC offices are located in Washington, D.C. adjacent to Union Station, which is about a 10 minute walk from the Capitol. It’s the central support entity for the federal judiciary, and provides a wide range of services to the federal court system nationwide, which includes the regional courts of appeals, and the trial and bankruptcy courts in the 94 judicial districts.
The AOUSC is not the “headquarters” of the federal judiciary. Each federal court is locally governed at the circuit and district level in accordance with federal statutes and guidance from the Judicial Conference of the United States, which is the federal judiciary’s policy-making body chaired by the Chief Justice of the United States. Also, the judiciary isn’t part of the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice is in the Executive Branch, and the federal judiciary is the “Third Branch of Government” - so named because Article III of the Constitution describes its functions. I know that your blog followers are aware of that, but you’d be surprised about the level of confusion on this even in Washington, D.C.
The AOUSC provides services to the federal courts, which can most efficiently and effectively be administered nationally. That is the reason my office’s top priority is to work in coordination with the U.S. Marshals Service to formulate the annual court security budget request we submit to Congress. My Office also provides security advice and assistance to the federal courts by monitoring and troubleshooting the issues that arise from having the Judicial Branch’s security provided by the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Federal Protective Service, of the Executive Branch, at the approximately 800 courthouses and other facilities that house courts and court units.
The Judicial Conference conducts its work through a variety of committees. My Office helps staff the Committee on Judicial Security, which is composed of 12 judges, one each from the 11 numbered circuits and the District of Columbia Circuit. This Committee provides oversight on the formulation and execution of the court security appropriation, and offers guidance and recommendations to the courts on security issues.
Q: What are your specific responsibilities?
I’m responsible for ensuring that the Court Security Office provides timely and accurate information and guidance to judges, clerks of court, and other court unit executives (such as probation and pretrial services chiefs, and federal public defenders) on their specific court security issues. Also, we provide the Committee on Judicial Security with the information and recommendations necessary to develop mid and long-range security plans.
While my Office has but six members, there are more than 2,000 judges, hundreds of clerks of court, court unit executives, and thousands of court staff who may want assistance, so we stay busy. In order to most effectively provide assistance I liaise with my counterparts at the Marshals Service, and the Federal Protective Service to seek both short and long-term solutions to issues that affect federal court security.
Q: How would you describe a ‘typical’ workday for yourself?
I have an administrative job. Typically my days are filled with routine “office work” - but are generally quite interesting and demanding. We advocate for the security of judges, who by training and the nature of their work, are extremely precise. This means that my office makes certain that our communications are clear and accurate.
I provide (along with a Marshals Service representative) formal briefings on court security to all newly appointed “chief” judges, from the appellate, district, and bankruptcy courts. There are often two or three such briefings per month.
I help staff a national advisory council on court space and security issues, and prepare for meetings of the Committee on Judicial Security. Both meet twice-a-year.
Otherwise, a normal day is spent at the computer, on the phone, and attending as few meetings as possible.
Having said that - I need to make this clear - the AOUSC is able to staff and operate its Court Security Office in this manner because the Marshals Service provides all the day-to-day operational and administrative heavy-lifting necessary to produce prisoners for proceedings and for providing both the contracted Court Security Officers and the security equipment which make courthouses safe. The federal judiciary is protected by a truly remarkable cadre of deputy U.S. marshals and contracted Court Security Officers. (The Marshals Service, which is a Department of Justice entity, also has its own appropriation which funds its salaries and expenses related to judicial protection, fugitive apprehension, asset forfeiture, witness security, etc.)
Q: In terms of court security – what are some of the challenges you face?
One major challenge that my Office and the Marshals Service face is a debate about how many Court Security Officers are needed (and can be afforded) versus using more security technology to protect courthouses. We know that providing Court Security Officers is more expensive than buying technology, but while technology can tell us that there is a security problem, Court Security Officers are required for response and resolution.
A second related challenge is determining which, if any, of the ever-emerging security technologies are likely to be most effective and cost efficient in keeping courthouses safe. Justifying and obtaining the funding for nationwide deployment of security technology depends on making a lot of sound choices, and the Marshals Service and my Office work hard to do just that.
Q: What do you think are the most critical issues facing the courts in terms of security?
One of the most vexing issues is how to ensure the proper balance between security and openness, so that a courthouse is adequately protected without appearing to be a fortress. Courthouses, both federal and state, have vulnerabilities and risk management issues, which are unique and much harder to deal with than the protection of other public buildings. This is primarily because the courts have proceedings, which must be open to the public. This means that alleged and convicted criminals, and participants in potentially life changing civil and bankruptcy cases, such as victims, witnesses, family members, and attorneys must all meet in a secure courtroom after having been screened when entering the facility - in a manner that keeps out dangerous weapons without creating an unwelcoming atmosphere.
The corollary to that issue is trying to determine what new threats will exploit courthouse vulnerabilities, and working to ensure that the desire for openness doesn’t tip the scale too far away from security.
Q: When you read or hear of acts of violence directed toward the courts what are your initial thoughts?
My initial reaction is to try and remember that due to the perceived need for lightning speed in the reporting of breaking news, what is initially relayed may not be entirely accurate. But, even with that in mind, particularly if the incident involves the federal courts, there are a series of steps and procedural protocols that we immediately initiate to notify other officials, and to see if the court itself needs any follow-on assistance.
Q: How has the current challenged economy impacted your organizations operational missions? What are you doing differently than before the economic change?
We’re now in the AOUSC’s fiscal year 2010, and are executing the budget that
was formulated in fiscal year 2008. Right now the court security appropriation is adequate to fund the Marshals Service’s role in court security; the judiciary’s share of the Federal Protective Service’s role in providing courthouse perimeter security; and the salaries and expenses necessary to operate my Office. The word from the AOUSC’s financial liaison with Congress is that our fiscal year 2011 funding will probably be constrained. The Judicial Conference requires all programs, such as Court Security, to continually practice cost containment strategies, and has imposed spending caps to contain costs and limit growth. Even so, within those necessary constraints I believe that the court security appropriation will continue to provide adequate protection for the federal courts.
Q: What do you hope to leave as a legacy for your Office?
I’m planning to retire in four years. I’d like to have identified and solved all the recurring problems so that my successor’s time can be devoted solely to solving new ones. But, realistically, that isn’t going to happen. The difficulty is that many of the problems are not technical in nature, but rather deal with inherent differences in expectations between what the courts may want, what the judiciary’s court security appropriation can fund, and what the Executive Branch agencies which provide courthouse security can deliver. I’ll probably have to settle for ensuring that we’ve done our best as an Office to make the courts as safe as possible.