Downed elevators causing courthouse chaos?

August 1, 2013 5:02:48 PM PDT
Courthouse chaos: Crowds of people filled the Harris County Courthouse Thursday morning in a log jam so severe, lines continued out the front doors. Now frustrated attorneys and delayed defendants asking why the wheels of justice are so commonly stalled at this courthouse.

Some attorneys and staff use the tunnel to get to court, and some have badges to bypass security. But for the rest, including jurors, witnesses and defendants, getting to court by 8:30-9am is more than a nightmare; it's often impossible.

Jackie Prickett practically crowd-surfed to court, for her daughter's sentencing. They were late.

"She had to be sat in the jury box because she was late and they could've revoked her bond because of it. But it wasn't her fault, it's the system's fault," Prickett said.

Long lines and painfully packed elevators have become the norm. Security told us at least three of 10 public elevators are down, which is frustrating for defendants and attorneys.

"When my clients who get here timely for their court dates, end up losing their bonds because of the long lines -- that's a problem," criminal defense attorney Diana Sims said.

"You have to make allowances for the crowd," Judge Denise Collins said.

Collins is more lenient than some when it comes to revoking bonds if you're late. But she sees the large crowds as a bigger problem.

"Whether it be a fire or a bomb threat, not even a bomb, and someone panics, I don't know how those folks are gonna get out," Collins said.

The courthouse is pretty empty during the afternoon so a lot of attorneys want to know why judges don't stagger dockets to avoid one big rush.

Judge Collins calls docket at 9:15am, which is later than most. And she's willing to go later if the sheriff's office can provide the staffing to transfer inmates.

"Once a month for the last three months, it's been the same thing, Prickett said.

For Prickett, the solution is simply fixing the elevators.

Meanwhile, attorneys offer their own advice to avoid the herd.

"When you're on bond, you should get here an hour early. That's just common sense," criminal defense attorney Woodrow Dixon said.

There is no public stair access in the building. Those behind authorized areas only.

As for when the elevators will be fixed, we're told soon, but perhaps not soon enough.

Take ABC13 with you!
Download our free apps for iPhone, iPad and Android devices

Load Comments