Two weeks after ordering the closure of the Third Avenue entrance to the King County Courthouse in downtown Seattle in the wake of a violent assault on a defense attorney and bus driver, the Superior Court’s presiding judge announced the entrance will reopen Monday morning.
“There is no question the unfortunate assault on [attorney] Kevin McCabe and the Metro bus driver — and the video that was so graphic — focused people’s attention,” Judge Jim Rogers said Friday, two days after the Metropolitan King County Council approved $600,000 in emergency funding to address security concerns at the courthouse.
Rogers said some of that money will pay for two sheriff’s deputies to be on Third Avenue during business hours and a portion will allow the court’s Fourth Avenue entrance to be open on a more consistent basis. He said the Seattle Police Department has also increased officers’ presence around the courthouse and it’s already created a noticeably safer environment.
“The courthouse is the physical manifestation of justice and so when members of the public seeking that justice can’t get in or out without being assaulted, then access to justice is denied,” Rogers said.
Before a Tuesday meeting of the County Council’s Government Accountability and Oversight Committee, Councilmember and committee Chairman Pete von Reichbauer asked county employees who had been assaulted outside the courthouse to share their stories. Kevin McCabe, a public defender who was repeatedly punched in the head during an unprovoked attack on Nov. 27, was among those who addressed the committee.
“You know what I think made a big difference? Pete von Reichbauer had all these statistics and called for people who’d been assaulted to come forward. There was no doubt after that hearing they were going to do something. He deserves a lot of credit,” Rogers said of the council member.
In an email sent to county employees who work at the courthouse, Rogers wrote he is rescinding his previous order closing Third Avenue until Jan. 1. The entrance will reopen Monday at 7 a.m.
Between January and September, Seattle police responded to 160 assaults — both misdemeanor assaults and aggravated assaults involving weapons or serious injuries — on both sides of the 500 block of Third Avenue, with 146 of them occurring across the street from the courthouse, according to SPD data. The total is up from 155 and 120 assaults reported in the same block during the same period in 2018 and 2017, respectively, the data show.
In a letter sent to the county last week, Seattle Senior Deputy Mayor Michael Fong wrote:
“SPD already expends enormous amounts of resources on the area surrounding the King County Courthouse and King County Metro bus stop located at the 3rd Avenue entrance. In the courthouse area year to date, SPD has made 292 arrests, of 216 unique individuals. SPD has dispatched to 605 crimes so far this year to this immediate area and has dedicated over 5,766 service hours on this block, either proactively patrolling, assisting other agencies, or responding to calls for service. That is a 9% increase (491 hours) from 2018. Two of the top five most frequently dispatched blocks in the entire city are in the immediate courthouse area.”