As a dispute over whether legally concealed weapons are permitted in the clerk of court’s office continues, a Sarasota County sheriff is looking to the appeals court for answers.
In a letter dated March 6, Sheriff Thomas M. Knight wrote to Chief Judge Charles E. Williams to inform the judge that Knight instructed attorneys to begin the process of seeking a writ of certiorari from the Second District Court of Appeal.
In a statement, 12th Judicial Circuit Court administrator Walt Smith acknowledged Knight’s plans and will let the process play out.
“The Twelfth Circuit Court respects the right of the Sheriff to take this action and will let this matter take its proper legal course,” Smith said in the letter.
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The statement also said the court is “reviewing all of its courthouse locations to take reasonable and necessary steps to protect the public pending a resolution from the Appellate Court.”
It’s unclear how long the “proper legal course” could take, or if the Second District Court of Appeal will even take the case.
The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office has no plans to file a similar writ, according to spokesperson Dave Bristow.
Sarasota and Manatee county sheriff’s offices recently changed policies which allow visitors with concealed weapons permits to bring weapons into the clerk of court’s offices. The decision comes despite a judge’s order stating because courthouse business is conducted there, the weapons should be banned.
Last week, Knight argued that returning deputies and security checkpoints outside the clerk of court’s office would encroach on the constitutional rights of citizens to carry a weapon and against unlawful search and seizure.
Just the day before, Williams sent a letter to Knight in order to know when Knight was going to comply with an administrative order that updated security and operations of court facilities policies. A deadline for the changes was set for 5 p.m. Monday.
In Manatee County, changes have been implemented at the Manatee County Historical Courthouse, which houses the clerk of courts offices and the historical courtroom.
Because the building is not used for official court proceedings, and what is happening in Sarasota County, weapons covered by a concealed permit carrier will be allowed into the building, Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells told the Herald last week. However, security checkpoints are still in place, and everyone entering the building will be screened.