Hennepin County Judge Lloyd Zimmerman: Gun violence a possibility at local courts

A Hennepin County judge is worried could be "carried out in a body bag" when hearing cases at Brookdale, so he's refusing to hear cases there anymore.

It appears Judge Lloyd Zimmerman's strategy has paid dividends, at least for him. His act of civil disobedience resulted in him being reassigned to hear cases in more secure courtrooms.

According to the Minnesota Lawyer, Zimmerman's request was spurred by last month's shooting in a metal detector-free Grand Marais courtroom. In that incident, Daniel Schlienz, who had just been convicted of a sex crime, left a conference-room meeting with his lawyer and then opened fire on the prosecuting attorney and a witness. Both lived, though Schlienz died in jail under mysterious circumstances less than two weeks later.

Zimmerman was apparently worried he might suffer the same fate as the Grand Marais shooting victims. In an e-mail sent to the judicial branch last week, he wrote that he's "tired of driving to Bookdale, the courtroom everyone who knows agrees is the most likely place for a shooting or violence to occur, and not know whether I will be carried out in a body bag that day." He said he wouldn't hear cases in Brookdale, Southdale, or Ridgedale until metal detectors were installed to screen visitors for weapons.

In response, a Hennepin County representative yesterday told CBS that Zimmerman has been reassigned to Family Court. Family cases are held at the Family Justice Center, and all people undergo weapons screening when entering the courtroom. 

CBS reports that Hennepin County is considering a $77,000, 16-week study to assess security needs at courtrooms. The study could recommend metal detectors at all courtrooms or the relocation of volatile domestic cases to the Government Center downtown.

In the meantime, judges and attorneys will be left wondering if they're in the crosshairs while in some Hennepin County courtrooms.

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