A judge ordered Monday that the Third Avenue entrance to the King County Courthouse in downtown Seattle will be closed for the rest of the year, citing safety concerns.
The court has received continued reports of assaults outside the courthouse, Presiding Judge Jim Rogers wrote in the order. Rogers, who has long been outspoken about what he perceives as a lack of security in the area, said litigants, jurors, attorneys and employees have reported being attacked.
“These safety conditions have the effect of discouraging and denying access and therefore justice to all who would seek it from our Court,” he wrote. “It discourages jury service.”
The entrance will close Tuesday through Jan. 1, but it will be available to people who can only reasonably access the building that way, according to the order. Otherwise, people will have to go through the Fourth Avenue entrance or enter the King County Administration building and use the tunnel to the courthouse. The Superior Court Clerk’s Office warned that it could result in longer lines for screening.
The order comes a week after the Sheriff’s Office said a man attacked an attorney and bus driver outside the courthouse, punching them and knocking them to the ground.
Concerns over security outside the courthouse are nothing new, although some questioned whether the area was really more dangerous than others back in 2017, when judges called for increased security and a city-county work group was formed. Some King County Council members then instead called for addressing underlying issues such as addiction, mental illness and homelessness.
The court said the Monday order was necessary “despite important safety work” by the city-county work group, according to a statement. A meeting is scheduled for next week between representatives from the court, the King County Council, King County Executive and Sheriff’s Offices to discuss how to address the issue by Jan. 2. The court said it is also in contact with the Seattle City Council and Mayor’s Office.
King County Council Chair Rod Dembowski is planning to introduce legislation to fund recommendations that come out of the work group, his office said in a statement.