The security ordinance that limited or prohibited deadly weapons, cell phones, recordings and food in the Justice Building was amended by the Kosciusko County Commissioners Tuesday, but still left concerns for a Warsaw man who questioned the constitutionality of it Tuesday and on Sept. 12.
The commissioners approved the original ordinance on Aug. 15.
County attorney Ed Ormsby read applicable portions of the ordinance Tuesday and spoke about what had changed in it.
Reading the ordinance, he said, “1.) No person, other than law enforcement officers, elected officials, officers of the court and authorized security personnel for the Justice Building shall possess within the Justice Building any deadly weapon as defined by Indiana code.
“2.) Except as otherwise authorized by one of the judges and except for law enforcement officers, elected officials, officers of the court, authorized security personnel for the Justice Building and employees or contractors of the county or the state of Indiana that are conducting official business: No person shall possess or use a mobile phone on the second floor of the Justice Building.”
He continued, “3.) No person shall bring food or drink into the Justice Building, except for persons that work at the Justice Building.”
A violation of section 1 of the ordinance may result in a fine of up to but not more than $2,500 for the first violation and up to but not more than $7,500 for a second or subsequent violation per Indiana code.
A violation of section 2 or 3 of the ordinance may result in a fine of up to, but not more than $100 for a first violation and up to, but not more than, $250 for a second or subsequent violation per Indiana code.
The ordinance does not restrict the lawful authority of the judges to adopt more restrictive orders or rules within and about the courtrooms of the Justice Building. The previous ordinance was repealed and replaced by the new version of the ordinance.
“That is the amended ordinance itself. The changes that were made to the ordinance that was passed on Aug. 15 are two changes,” Ormsby said. “The commissioners have taken out the portion of the previous ordinance that said that no person shall use a device to record audio or video or take pictures in the Justice Building. And then, the other change is that the penalty for possession and use of a mobile phone on the second floor of the Justice Building has been changed from a fine of up to $2,500 to a fine of up to $100 and then $250 for subsequent violations.”
Commissioner Bob Conley made a motion to approve the new ordinance.
Commissioner Cary Groninger asked to confirm that the revised ordinance prohibited cell phones on the second floor of the Justice Building but a person can have them on the first floor. Ormsby said that was correct. Groninger then seconded Conley’s motion.
“I would add that we did a walk through of the Justice Building to try to come up with an area upstairs that made sense to be able to have phones. The layout of the judges’ chambers are all right there. It’s really impossible to have an area up there,” Commissioner Brad Jackson said.
He said they also talked about getting lockers for people to put their cell phones in so they don’t have to go back out to their vehicles to put their phones away or retrieve them.
Conley said the delineation of the first floor was pretty obvious. “You go up the stairs or up the elevator, that’s that line that we drew to get better balance so people can use their phones if they need to, access information on their phones as needed but still give security and some assemblance to the judges and the courtrooms.”
The commissioners voted unanimously in favor of the revised ordinance.
Matt Banta, who questioned the constitutionality of the original ordinance on Sept. 15, was back before the commissioners Tuesday to question the constitutionality of the revised version.
“I’m very glad to see that the photography part was taken away, but I have questions about the second floor. On the second floor, is there any part of the second floor that is open to the public? I understand that the judges have discretion over their courtrooms, not the public lobby, things like that. So, to me, this sounds like a deprivation of property if you tell me I can’t take my phone up to the public lobby to support someone who’s going into court,” Banta said.
He understands that he can’t use his phone in court, but it was his understanding that the whole ordinance was put together to protect the judges from people misbehaving in court.
“I have a problem with my rights being taken away because of someone else’s behavior. Judges should deal with behavior on a case-by-case basis. But if you deny the public access to their own property in a place that they’re allowed to be, in public, that’s a Fourth Amendment violation and you’re looking for a lawsuit,” Banta stated.
He said he didn’t understand why Kosciusko County was just following suit with what other counties are doing without thinking about constitutionality and citizenry and how they’re going to take it.
“I’m not a guy who’s going to just sit down. This is not right,” Banta stated.
Conley said the commissioners were allowing him to use his phone on the first floor inside the Justice Building.
“If I have to go to court, am I supposed to sit on the first floor until court is called, or am I supposed to wait on the second floor?” Banta asked.
“That’s totally up to you. You do what you want to do,” Conley said.
After a disagreement between Banta and Conley over whether or not Conley said “he didn’t care,” Jackson thanked Banta for his comments and the commissioners said no more.