Letter Submitted to Honolulu Star-Advertiser Regarding Third Circuit Courthouse Closures

Letters to the Editor
Honolulu Star-Advertiser
7 Waterfront Plaza
500 Ala Moana, Suite 7-210
Honolulu, HI  96813

This is in response to the Department of Public Safety’s (PSD) August 19 letter regarding the Judiciary’s plan to temporarily close three rural courts due to PSD staffing shortages.

The Judiciary cannot function safely without PSD’s assistance, as it is an essential element of court security.  In recent years, however, for a variety of reasons including budget constraints, PSD requests for additional sheriffs were unsuccessful.

As for PSD’s proposal that the Judiciary arm its bailiffs as an alternative to having sheriffs: 1) bailiffs have their own assignments related to court operations and may supplement the efforts of sheriffs, but cannot replace them; 2) if safety requires a minimum of two sheriffs at all times as PSD requires, then it is logical to assume that safety concerns also would require two bailiffs in each courtroom; and 3) hiring, training, and arming bailiffs would take substantial additional resources both in time and funds.

Without trained and armed deputy sheriffs providing security to the public, court users, employees, and judges, the Judiciary had no other choice than to close its courts.

When PSD is able to fill its current vacancies (six sheriff positions in Kona and five in Hilo), the Judiciary will re-evaluate the need to close the three affected courts.

The Judiciary appreciates the cooperation and assistance extended to the courts by PSD.  Overall, our respective organizations have had a good working relationship, which the Judiciary looks forward to continuing into the future.

Thomas R. Keller
Administrative Director of the Courts

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