U.S. Courts Design Guide
Windows. Windows must not permit visual surveillance from exterior locations.
Ballistic-resistant glazing (UL Standard 752, Level VIII) is required for exterior
windows in all courtrooms located on the ground floor or directly adjacent (within 24
feet or 7300 mm) to public parking structures and elevated walkways.
Emergency Lighting. Emergency lighting in courtrooms must be provided to permit
orderly evacuation in the event of an emergency. Selected lighting fixtures within the
courtroom must provide an uninterrupted source of lighting in the event of a power
outage. Standby power for emergency lighting to the courtrooms must be provided by
local battery back-up units connected to an emergency generator. The judge's bench
must not be spotlighted by emergency lighting.
Video Systems. Courtroom security cameras must be connected to the USMS video
surveillance system and may be activated by a duress alarm device. The security
camera and courtroom audio can be connected to the central cellblock for monitoring by
defendants who are removed from the courtroom. USBC, magistrate judge, and
standard USDC courtrooms must have one camera, typically mounted on the back wall,
with a view of the entire well area. Large special proceedings and en banc courtrooms
have an additional camera mounted on the front wall. Conduits for CCTV must be
installed in all four corners of courtrooms to accommodate current and future camera
installation. Where cameras are installed, recessed housings must be provided in the
wall or ceiling. Cameras must be positioned to prevent room lighting from interfering
with the view or picture quality.
Ballistic-Resistant Material. The judge's bench must be lined with ballistic-resistant
material (UL Standard 752, Level III) on all vertical surfaces.
Duress Alarm Devices. Duress alarm devices must be located at the judge's bench,
courtroom deputy clerk station, and bailiff station (if present). In appeals panel
courtrooms, the center position of the panel is equipped with the alarm button.
Additional bench locations for alarms must be provided in en banc courtrooms. Alarms
are connected to the USMS Command and Control Center. All duress alarm devices in
a courtroom should report as a single zone.
Weapons Screening. For trials requiring a high level of security, spectators entering
the courtroom are subject to additional weapons screening. Equipment must be
provided when necessary to detect firearms, bombs, and other weapons at the entrance
to the spectator area from the public lobby. Electrical service must provide a 20-amp,
120-volt, dedicated circuit connected to the emergency generator. Outlets outside the
courtroom entrance must be placed to avoid exposed cord connections.
Emergency Egress Doors. Public egress from the courtroom should be through
public circulation. If egress is through restricted circulation, doors must be equipped
with a fail-safe electric lock interfaced with the fire-alarm system. Emergency egress
doors, used by judges, must have free access from restricted circulation and a keylock
or electronic access control on the courtroom side.