Abbott signs bill into law to improve courthouse security, honors Judge Kocurek

Judge Julie Kocurek and her family with Gov. Greg Abbott as he signs a new courthouse security bill into law on May 27, 2017. (Office of the Governor)
Judge Julie Kocurek and her family with Gov. Greg Abbott as he signs a new courthouse security bill into law on May 27, 2017. (Office of the Governor)

AUSTIN (KXAN) – A terrifying moment for a local judge could has lead to a new law aimed at improving courtroom security.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Saturday signed Senate Bill 42, the Judge Julie Kocurek Judicial and Courthouse Security Act.

The law is named in her honor after she survived an attempted assassination outside her Austin home in 2015. Judge Kocurek and her family attended today’s signing by the governor.

The act requires security plans and training in each federal, state and local courtroom. It also mandates personal security for a threatened judge and redacts the address of a judge or their spouse in public records.

“The craven attack against Judge Julie Kocurek is deeply troubling, and Texas must be committed to protecting those who uphold the rule of law in this state,” said Gov. Abbott. “With this new law, judges will have the proper security that creates a safe environment in which they can perform their duties.”

Senate Bill 42, authored by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, provides the following changes to judicial security:

  • Expands security incident reporting requirements for court buildings.
  • Requires the Office of Court Administration to create a judicial security division to serve as a central resource for security best practices.
  • Requires presiding municipal and administrative judges to create a court security committee for all courts served by that judge.
  • Requires court security officers to receive specialized court security training in their first year.
  • Allows DPS, at their discretion, to provide personal security to a state judge who has been threatened or attacked.

In Kocurek’s case, Travis County officials said they knew about the threat but did not inform Kocurek. Search warrants showed officials were warned two weeks prior to the shooting that someone was planning to kill an unnamed Travis County judge. Kocurek says while the threat did not mention her by name but the name of the suspect, Chimene Onyeri, was someone who had been in her courtroom several times before.

This law will go into effect September 1, 2017.

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