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Middlebury, Conn., attorney Michael A. Fasano Sr. is careful to keep a lookout for disgruntled litigants opposing his clients. The potential that they could be waiting to spring on him on his way to court is a lingering concern that won’t subside since his friend and fellow attorney Julie M. Porzio nearly died at the hands of a client’s estranged husband six months ago. Such fears, Fasano said, are exacerbated by not knowing if the Judicial Branch has even considered additional security measures in the wake of the June 15 shooting of Porzio and her client Donna Bochicchio in Middletown. “I don’t feel safe,” Fasano said of the routine treks he must make from his car to courthouse entrances. “I still see a long way to go in terms of security for lawyers. … We still have to park in the same lot as the Michael Bochicchios of the world.” A retired state trooper, Bochicchio was a pro se divorce litigant when he shot Porzio four times before killing his wife, Donna, and then himself in the municipal parking lot adjacent to Middlesex Superior Court. Porzio underwent multiple operations to repair the damage to her face and hand, but will be left with physical and emotional scars for the rest of her life. “It can happen again,” warned Fasano, of Duffy & Fasano. “We all have cases [that make us] look over our shoulder. There’s been nothing done to protect us from that type of danger.” SERIOUS ABOUT SAFETY Court officials take issue with Fasano’s comments, but concede their vigilance may not be noticeable to the general public. At the time the Middletown incident occurred, there were some security concerns raised by attorneys, said Melissa Farley, executive director of the Judicial Branch’s external affairs division. “If any attorney or members of the public have concerns about safety, they need to let us know. We take safety seriously,” Farley said. There is no specific hotline to call in such instances. But Superior Court Operations Executive Director Joseph D’Alesio advised lawyers to contact the chief judicial marshal in the specific court where they are litigating a case and are concerned for their or their client’s safety. Among other measures, court officials can arrange for parties to park in special parking areas, provide them with escorts to and from their cars and allow them to wait in a staff-secure area until their cases are heard, D’Alesio said. “There have been situations since [the Middletown shooting] that have taken place,” he said. “We do whatever we can to ensure safety.” Several meetings were conducted after the shooting in which court officials reviewed their internal policies and incident reports prior to that day. The review indicated the “policies were effective,” D’Alesio said. According to an incident report provided to The Law Tribune, Michael Bochicchio attempted to bring a gun into the courthouse on May 26. Bochicchio “flashed” his state police badge at the judicial marshal working the metal detector and said he was there on business. But Bochicchio had been pointed out to marshals earlier that week, and they were advised he was a retired trooper and was at the court for a “highly contested divorce matter.” Upon questioning, Bochicchio admitted he was there for his divorce and was carrying a weapon. He asked if his gun could be left in the marshals’ lock box, but was told he had to leave the building immediately, according to the incident report. Angered by the command, Bochicchio tried to pressure the marshal to let him check in his gun. But the marshal advised her supervisor, and Bochicchio returned shortly afterward without the weapon. The week before the June 15 shooting, Bochicchio was stopped again, for attempting to bring a tape recorder into the courthouse. MORE MARSHALS Chief Court Administrator Joseph H. Pellegrino applauds such safety measures and points out the large increase in the number of judicial marshals now working in the state’s courthouses. Within the last year, five training classes graduated from the marshal academy, bringing their ranks up from 700 to 850, he said. Such training includes the “management of aggressive behavior,” which teaches marshals how to spot and respond to telltale signs of impending violence. D’Alesio said ensuring adequate marshal coverage for family and support enforcement matters is a priority trumped only by the need to properly staff courthouse cellblocks, metal detectors and criminal court buildings. The Judicial Branch’s goal to increase its legion of marshals to 920 has received the blessing of Chief Justice William J. Sullivan. Such an increase can be achieved through the branch’s existing level of funding, D’Alesio said. He and other officials declined to discuss policies for handling specific safety threats, fearing possible security breaches if the information were made public. A majority of the court facilities now have X-ray machines in place, officials said. Courthouses also have camera surveillance, and marshals regularly conduct perimeter checks. Still, to Fasano and other lawyers’ dismay, providing parking areas for just members of the bar would be too costly a venture to roll out statewide, as well as a logistical nightmare for those charged with determining how many lawyers were coming to court on a given day, court officials said. In Middletown, the state has no jurisdiction over the parking lot where the shooting occurred. Located only a few hundred feet away from the rear of the Middletown Police Department, it is a city-maintained lot with a parking attendant. At the Danbury court, there are lawyer-specific parking spaces, but they are within a public parking area. The Judicial Branch maintains public parking at 16 courthouses, which may have surveillance cameras and patrolling marshals, but are open to lawyers, litigants and the general public, D’Alesio said. UNREALISTIC BURDEN Unlike Fasano, Middletown solo Phrances Szewczyk is comfortable with the amount of security at court. She considers the June 15 shooting to be more of an “oddity.” “Whenever there’s a problem, the state marshals are always there,” Szewczyk said of her family court appearances. At a recent trial, she recalled the defendant started to become agitated, and there were five marshals in the room. “I’ve always felt safe,” she said. Szewczyk added the judicial marshals in Middletown are particularly attentive to the “highly emotionally charged setting” of the Regional Family Trial Docket on the courthouse’s fourth floor. The marshals, she said, ensure opposing parties take separate elevators. In escorting a litigant to his or her vehicle, they also make sure the opposing party has left before going back inside the courthouse, she noted. State Rep. Robert Farr, R-West Hartford, is both a ranking member of the state Judiciary Committee and an attorney at Heffernan & Farr in Hartford. Predicting and averting tragedies such as the Middletown shooting is an unrealistic burden for the court system to bear, he said. “I don’t know what we could’ve done,” he said of the June 15 incident. “… Obviously, it’s not physically possible to have guards patrolling parking lots around every courthouse.” Democratic state Sen. Andrew McDonald, the Judiciary Committee’s co-chair who practices in Pullman & Comley’s Stamford office, agreed. “I’m not certain there [is] any way to protect against any person laying in wait to ambush any person,” he said. “There are bizarre and unpredictable events in any setting. The Judicial Branch and judicial marshals do a very good job trying to protect against as many possible events that can be easily anticipated.” Before any proposal for new legislation, McDonald suggested the matter be studied to determine if security measures, both in terms of the presence of judicial marshals and use of camera surveillance, are uniformly instituted at all state courthouses.

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