LAS VEGAS -- It's hardly a popular destination yet thousands are waiting an hour or more just to get into the Clark County courthouse.
The I-Team raised the issue back in 2010 following a fatal shooting at the nearby federal courthouse. Despite promises to shorten the wait, the lines have gotten longer. In 2010, court administration called the congestion at the Regional Justice Center an active security concern it planned to fix with a redesign of the entrance and additional manpower. Now, two years later, not much has changed.
"This is crazy to me." Man, it's ridiculous, ridiculous." Those are a few of the comments from people waiting in line.
"I'm here every day and I see it every day," said Dave Haverland who enjoys a front row seat from his hotdog cart at the corner of 3rd Street and Lewis Avenue. "I see people going down the street going 'oh my God,'" he said.
By mid-morning, the line is more weekday amusement park than sell-out concert. No one is more frustrated with the daily delays than district court Chief Judge Jennifer Togliatti. Over the last 18 months, she's hired a new security chief, raised the qualifications for all marshals, and secured 10 new part-time marshal positions which are scheduled to be in place soon.
Yet despite those efforts, the lines at the court's only open entrance have grown from bad to abomination.
"That's probably true. I haven't compared two years ago to today, but what I do know is that our funding for the courts, including security, is down. Funding for everything is down," Togliatti said.
To safely cover the front gate, all 32 district court judges, and unexpected employee absences, Togliatti estimates she needs eight additional marshals. Four marshals could be used to re-open the building's south entrance.
Having stood in the line himself, Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak agrees it simply can't stand. But he questions, as has county management, whether the court is using its existing resources efficiently.
"It doesn't make sense that it's not an issue at the federal courthouse, it's not an issue at the family court, it's not an issue at the airport, it's an issue at the RJC. Why, why at this one place is it an issue?
According to the court, the RJC averages 120,000 visitors a month which is three times more than the family court. Further, court marshals, unlike their TSA counterparts, respond to security concerns building-wide whether it's a medical emergency, a disturbance, or even a crime in progress.
"We have a unique environment that is highly emotionally charged and the people coming here for the day are not going on vacation. Quite frankly, until they're here all day, every day, seeing what a marshal does, instead of anecdotal, I don't know if they're in the best position to decide the courthouse security for the third branch," Togliatti
Additional staffing at the RJC does require county approval.
"There's no reason for this," said one person in line.
And after more than 30 minutes in line, most of the standing-room only crowd knows how it would vote. However, for one local businessman, the long lines pay off. Haverland counts the court's busiest days among his most profitable for the hotdog stand. "They're not happy about that but what are you going to do?"
Another issue that could come into play is a security line currently reserved for attorneys. It's been closed sporadically in recent weeks, and when it is, attorneys have been permitted to go to the front of the line. You can imagine how that's gone over with folks who've waited in the heat.
The I-Team is going to continue to monitor the situation and you can help with that. If you encounter an outrageous line, shoot some video or snap a picture and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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