Judge files courthouse security complaint

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

District Judge Teddy Hartley has filed a complaint with the New Mexico Attorney General about security at the Curry County Courthouse, County Manager Lance Pyle said Tuesday.

Pyle told county commissioners he learned of the complaint in a letter from the attorney general “basically telling us that we need to address courthouse security.”

Pyle said Hartley’s complaint was security needs to be addressed and the sheriff’s office is not giving the courts full security coverage when court is in session.

Hartley, an advocate for a new judicial complex, has long argued security at the courthouse is insufficient, citing issues such as a need for more deputies in courtrooms, security equipment and a issues with access to the courts.

Sheriff Matt Murray told commissioners his deputies have staffed countless trials and proceedings and routinely secure the building and monitor access points during high-profile trials.

“We answer their needs,” Murray said.

“If he’s going to start pointing fingers … I’m going to stick up for the sheriff’s office.”

Murray said Hartley has been asked for and has failed to provide his office with a full calendar of when court is in session.

The sheriff’s office has had meetings with Hartley and the judge still has not been provided court calendars, he said.

He said that makes it nearly impossible to develop security plans and staffing schedules.

“I have been to both of those meetings and he’s failed to produce them (calendars),” Murray said.

“It would be helpful if we could find out when the (court’s) hours are. Right now it’s just a shot in the dark.”

Hartley was not present at the meeting could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Contacted by phone Tuesday, Ninth Judicial District Court Administrator Louis Moore declined to address the issue of court schedules being provided to the sheriff’s office.

“We’re working toward a resolution with the county,” he said, describing negotiations as amicable.

State statute requires the sheriff’s office provide security when the courts are in session.

The sheriff’s office has a certified deputy assigned exclusively to the courts, four transport officers who stay with inmates during court proceedings and provides additional deputies for security as needed, officials have said.

In September the county was posed to hire two additional security officers for the courts but the plan fell apart after Hartley withdrew the court’s contribution to the officer’s salaries because only one of the officers would be certified law enforcement.