36th District Court prohibits pencils and pens

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — At 36th District Court, the writing is on the decorative wall coverings — and that’s why bringing in pens, pencils and markers is now prohibited.

Court Administrator Kelli Moore Owen said Wednesday the murals, featuring the city skyline, streets and symbols of justice, went up last week. Days later, she said, court staff began complaining they were being marked up.

That’s when the court updated its list of prohibited items to exclude writing instruments and quickly purchased clip boards with nonremovable ink pens for each of the 26 courtrooms in the state’s busiest court building. The new policy will be in place indefinitely.

“It was a sudden change, I’ll admit. We just want people to respect the building and not vandalize,” said Moore Owen, adding that the decision by some to carve into the murals is “unfortunate.”

“You wouldn’t go vandalize your house,” she said.

Officials want to “do what’s best” and “keep the prestigiousness of the courthouse intact,” Moore Owen said.

Attorneys and members of the press with proper credentials will be excluded from the new policy, she said.

Moore Owen said the wall coverings are the latest improvements to the five-story courthouse in the last couple of years. There’s fresh paint, new fencing and signage, and a power washing of the building’s exterior for the first time since 1985, she said.

“We are trying to project a better image,” the court administrator said.

The court’s decision to ban writing implements was prompted by vandals, she said, but the items also could pose a safety risk.

The items join an already extensive list of items the public is barred from bringing into the courthouse, including cellphones, hammers and saws, flatware, guns, noisemakers, and live or dead bedbugs. Visitors can’t bring their booze, box cutters, bullets or brass knuckles either, according to the list.

Warren resident Mesa Allen was at the Madison Street court on Wednesday to take care of a ticket. To her, the new rules are excessive.

“It’s crazy,” Allen said. “It don’t make no sense.”

Meanwhile, Detroiter Lakisha McFadden-Jones played it safe, entering the building to handle her court business with only paperwork in hand. For safety sake, she said she agrees with the latest policy.

“They always update the list,” McFadden-Jones said. “I think it’s reasonable.”