A Circuit Court judge has ruled in a long and complex legal battle that the State of Maryland should bear one-third of the cost of providing building security for District Court in Prince George's County, about $148,000 annually.
The ruling by Charles County Circuit Court Judge Steven G. Chappelle places responsibility for funding that part of the security on the state District Court, according to Martha F. Rasin, chief judge of that court system.
Rasin noted that her budget for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 was approved two years ago and said she is not sure where she will find the $148,000 to satisfy Chappelle's order.
But Rasin said Chappelle also ruled that Prince George's County, not the state District Court, should pay for guarding prisoners and transporting them to and from court.
"It's certainly welcome news for the Prince George's District Court, the District Court system statewide and the entire judiciary," Rasin said of the ruling regarding prisoner expenses. "Had the decision been otherwise, we would likely have been exposed to gargantuan expenses for getting prisoners and other people to court."
Chappelle also ordered Prince George's County Sheriff Alonzo D. Black to show at a Jan. 11 hearing why he should not be found in contempt for violating a court order requiring the sheriff to provide security in Prince George's Circuit Court.
That Circuit Court order, which requires the sheriff to have at least two deputies in each Prince George's Circuit courtroom in which criminal cases are tried, is routinely violated. Sheriff's officials have said they do not have enough deputies to meet the requirement.
Rasin said Chappelle's ruling requires the state District Court to bear one-third of the cost of District Court security in parts of the Upper Marlboro courthouse outside the District and Circuit courtrooms.
Chappelle is presiding over a complicated legal skirmish among the county, the sheriff's department and the state over who should pay for court security.
Three years ago, then-Sheriff James V. Aluisi (D) sued the county, claiming that County Executive Wayne K. Curry (D) had slashed too much from his budget. Curry counter-sued, alleging waste and mismanagement. The county also sued the state, arguing that it should pay for many security duties the sheriff's department had been providing.
Many of the key issues have been resolved. The state Court of Appeals has ruled that the state must pay for most of the security at the District Court. Chappelle must still decide how much money the state should pay the county for security it has provided over the last 25 years.