degree of intrusiveness caused by the magnetometer is minimal at best, and much less intrusive than other equally thorough methods of preventing weapons from entering a courthouse.
On the other side of the balance, the governmental interest in safeguarding courthouses is paramount. Given the plague of courtroom violence, the need to protect judicial officers and the steady stream of visitors to the Family Court is undeniable. While plaintiffs stress that no serious incidents involving juveniles have occurred at the Orange County Family Court, they cannot refute the existence of the potential for violent incidents.
The rationale motivating the use of magnetometer searches, namely the perceived danger of violence, cannot be simply confined to the specific locations at issue in this case. See Wilkinson, 832 F.2d, at 1339. Indeed, courts have taken judicial notice of the threats of violent acts directed at courthouses that have given rise to an immediate need for protective measures. See, e.g., McMorris, 567 F.2d, at 899; People v. Alba, 104 Misc. 2d 1095, 430 N.Y.S.2d 923, 931 (Bronx County Supreme Court 1980), rev'd on other grounds, 81 A.D.2d 345, 440 N.Y.S.2d 230 (1st Dept. 1981).
Plaintiff's contends that no facts exist showing that any violent incidents or incidents of weapons being secreted into court by minors have yet occurred at the Orange County Family Court. This is a bit misleading however. For family courts in other counties where OCSS personnel are directly responsible for security, Unusual Incident Reports have been maintained recording various incidents of involving seizure of weapons or violence. No such reports were produced for the Orange County Family Court because the local deputy sheriffs in charge of its security did not submit any to OCSS, at least before 1989. See O'Reilly Deposition at 42-43, 50; Perno Deposition at 48-49.
The absence of such reports, however, does not prevent us from viewing the prevention of such incidents as of significant importance. The Family Court does not need to wait until a tragically violent episode occurs as happened at the Westchester County Family Court in 1984 before it can institute magnetometer searches. While most do not indicate the age of the persons involved, the Unusual Incident Reports from those county family courts that did produce such records demonstrate that both adults and juveniles have been involved in violent incidents and confiscation of dangerous weapons. See, e.g., O'Reilly Affidavit, Exhibit 5 and Exhibit 6. This fact was also noted in a recent decision by a New York state court that upheld the use of random magnetometer searches at a public school. See People v. Dukes, N.Y.L.J., Feb. 10, 1992 at 29, col. 3 (Criminal Court, Feb. 9, 1992). The court in Dukes noted that over 2000 weapons were recovered from students during the 1990-91 school year alone. Id.
In the first year of operation at the Orange County Family Court, some 1,177 weapons were confiscated. Among these were 12 guns, 991 knives, and 68 razors. See O'Reilly Affidavit, Exhibit 7. Given the evidence of violence and weapons confiscations at the family courts in New York, it seems clear that Orange County's installation of a magnetometer was a reasonable, prudent, and effective preventative measure.
In this holding we follow the path taken by other courts that have also concluded that magnetometer searches do not run afoul of the 4th Amendment. See, e.g., McMorris, 567 F.2d 897; Downing v. Kunzig, 454 F.2d 1230 (6th Cir. 1972) (upholding regulation requiring all persons entering a federal courthouse to submit to a search of their bags and packages); Justice v. Elrod, 649 F.Supp. 30 (N.D.Ill. 1986), aff'd, 832 F.2d 1048 (7th Cir. 1987) (holding that the realistic possibility of a problem is enough to support the use of magnetometers).
Tragically, the effort today to secure the safety of the public courts resembles a battle. Protecting judicial officers and members of the public from the omnipresent threats of violence that surround our public institutions involves greater security efforts and vigilance than ever before. In this fight, magnetometers have become a tool of choice. Without unduly intruding upon people's privacy, they effectively help maintain the security of our courts by detecting the presence of weapons concealed among its daily visitors. If courts cannot secure the safety of its judicial officers and the public inside the courthouse doors, they surely cannot secure justice for society beyond them.
To conclude, we find that no genuine material disputes exist concerning the dangers of violent incidents at our nation's courts, particularly in the heated, angry atmosphere permeating family courts. All visitors to the Family Court are required to pass through the magnetometer; the deputy sheriffs operating it receive training in its use and follow set procedures. As a result, we are not prepared to shackle courts by preventing them from using a device proven effective in reducing the dangers of violence. The use of magnetometers to screen juveniles, as a matter of law, does not represent an unreasonable search violating of the 4th Amendment. Consequently, plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is denied and defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted.
Dated: White Plains, New York
February 26, 1992
GERARD L. GOETTEL
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