Discussions about moving Pulaski Circuit Court into the Justice Center are drawing complaints from Judge Michael Shurn. During Monday’s county commissioners meeting, Shurn complained that he hasn’t been included in recent discussions. “I never see it on the docket, but yet I read about it in the newspaper,” he said. “You’re trying to decide what security is, and you’re trying to decide the future of the Circuit Court. You know, I think it would behoove you all to actually involve the Circuit Court in that conversation. I’m sort of shocked that you don’t do that.”
Shurn voiced his opposition to the plan when it was first presented during a joint county council and commissioners meeting in December. The discussion resumed last month, without him.
Shurn had been urging county officials to install a security checkpoint in the courthouse, as recommended by the county’s security committee back in 2016. This week, he took issue with the council and commissioners changing those plans. “It was done,” he said. “The proposals were made, and it wasn’t just stationing a sheriff’s deputy there. It was many other things that can help with deescalating situations in a broad-based educational program.”
Judge Shurn felt the commissioners may not have fully understood the court’s space requirements. “If I had my druthers, I would love to send you all out here and have your room because I need your commissioners’ room, quite frankly, because I’ve got CASA somewhere else, we’ve got JDI,” he said. “[Superior Court Judge] Crystal [Brucker Kocher] and I are starting a drug and veterans court. They have an 18-member panel, probably, that meets every week for those people and then they’re in court. So it’s not just coming into court in a box.”
Even if Circuit Court could fit in the Justice Center, Shurn is concerned that wouldn’t help with security at other courthouse offices. However, the county commissioners have also discussed moving the Clerk’s Office into the Justice Center, and Commissioner Mike McClure has raised the possibility of eventually moving all government offices out of the courthouse.
Still, Shurn felt the courthouse serves an important purpose. “It’s very hokey but I want to tell you. The reason they call it the courthouse and the reason that Circuit Court was on the top floor of the courthouse is because whether or not you think the judge is any good or the decisions are any good, it’s a beacon of justice, when it’s the highest building in town. We’re not just a criminal court. We run children, all sorts of things.”
To help figure out how to move forward, the commissioners agreed to reactivate the county’s security committee. Commissioner Jerry Locke said he’s been researching neighboring counties’ court facilities and offered to serve as the commissioners’ representative. Judge Shurn plans to ask for an appointment from the county council next week.