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CHEYENNE - A panel looking into how to improve safety in Wyoming courtrooms is asking the state attorney general just how far court security can go.

Wyoming Court Security Commission members said Thursday that they believe judges have legal authority to determine whether people entering their courtrooms can be searched.

But they said that some county attorneys and other prosecutors have questioned the legal basis for searching people when they enter a courthouse for other county business.

Spurred by violence in other states, the Legislature formed the Wyoming Court Security Commission with representatives from across the legal community. It will provide the state and counties with recommendations for improving safety in courts.

Albany County District Judge Jeffery Donnell said the question of screening at the courthouse door, as opposed to the courtroom entrance, has been "a fairly hot-button issue."

Campbell County Attorney Jeanie Stone added that that has been a "general concern with prosecutors."

Fremont County Sheriff Jack "Skip" Hornecker said if contraband, such as illegal drugs or weapons, is found, the attorney general's opinion needs to clarify whether such searches are legal and if the person can be charged.

Laramie County Circuit Judge Denise Nau said county sheriff's deputies screen those going to the second floor of the county government complex, where the courtrooms are. People are searched even if they are not going to a courtroom.

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And people have been charged for carrying illegal items, she said.

Commission Chairman Joe Moore, state director of Homeland Security, said screenings such as courthouse entrance cameras could be considered as alternatives to more intrusive searches.

In only its second meeting, the commission also discussed equipment, training and procedures. They also discussed asking the Legislature to establish a fund for security in the event of high-profile or highly volatile cases.

Nau said some relatively minor cases have involved gang members, and some of their supporters show up in gang colors or with attitudes that can lead to trouble.

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