Keeping courthouse safe is important job

Melissa Topey
Mar 18, 2014


They never know what they may find.

Erie County sheriff’s deputies (retired Lt.) Joe McPeek and Val Ripley are the first line of defense at the Erie County Common Pleas Court. They run the security checkpoint and metal detector at the courthouse entrance.

The security checkpoint came under the control of the Erie County Sheriff’s Office about a year ago. Until then, a civilian crew ran the checkpoint, with deputies in charge of the rest of the building.

“This is a very emotional building. People are either very happy or very upset. We understand that,” Ripley said.

It is their job to keep those emotions in check as hundreds pass through every day.

My skills were tested alongside them on Tuesday for this week’s On the Job.

I failed.

An elderly woman and man came into the courthouse. She put her purse into one of the gray plastic tubs and McPeek slid it into the scanner, which Ripley and I were operating. I noticed the cell phone right away.

That is a “no no” in the courthouse since 2010. “I will have to ask this lady to open her purse. You will see why in a moment” Ripley whispered to me. “Ma’am do you have a cell phone, iPod mini and a knife in your purse?” she asked. What! A knife? I am looking at the screen and see nothing.

The lady removed her phone, her iPod mini and a small Swiss Army knife. “I forgot that was in there,” the lady said. It was obvious she was embarrassed and that she really had forgotten the knife. Most of the time, people don’t remember they are carrying an item, the deputies said. “They have other things on their mind” Ripley said.

We took the items for the duration of their visit to the courthouse and locked them up. 

They would pick them up on their way out. I continued to look at the screen. “Do you see that small corkscrew looking item there?” Ripley pointed out on the screen. “Yes” I said. “That tells me it’s a knife” he said.

I looked up at McPeek. “She is the best” McPeek said. Ripley, just the day before, found a stun gun in a woman’s purse. “I looked at her and told her she could not have that in the courthouse” Ripley said. 

The woman’s son took it back out to the car.

“I looked at the image on the screen and I still could not see it,” McPeek said.

They keep a list of potentially dangerous items they find, along with the date and time.

Knives are the most common. Also on the list: Screwdrivers and pepper spray.

I used the hand wand to scan assistant prosecutor Jeanne Lippert, and Erie County public defenders Jeff Whitacre and Harsh Tandon, as well as Luvada Wilson, Erie County clerk of courts.

I asked my security cohorts to describe some of the more unusual encounters they have had. “A pregnant woman wanted to go through to see the sex of the baby,” McPeek said.

I cleared lots of people through the scanner. I lost count how many.

McPeek enjoyed quizzing me about what appeared on the screen when I would run bags, briefcases and loose items through. The most common items I saw on the scanner were keys, paper clips and binders holding documents. I stopped a woman who had a cell phone in her purse. “Ma’am, do you have a cell phone?” I asked doing my best Ripley impersonation. “I work on the fourth floor,” she said. 

Courthouse employees are allowed to bring their cell phones in. So instead of confiscating a cell phone I offered an apology. “I am sorry I did not know you worked here” I said.

She seemed fine.

I think the power was getting to my head.



It's so sad that the world has come to this, but alas, it has. Great thanks to the Sheriff's deputies in all the county courts that are striving to keep us safe.

Julie R.

Gee, I agree that keeping the courthouse safe is an important job. In fact, I distinctly remember that one security guard in the picture.

It was right after a more than dirty, unethical, unprofessional probate court hearing ---- a hearing that the probate court didn't know that I (and another party) had been notified of. I guess they figured since we were never notified of the 1st one, we wouldn't be notified of the 2nd, either, and by the time they found out we were, it was too late to cancel it.

Anyway, while walking out of the courtroom afterwards, nobody said a word until all of a sudden that snake Lorain County attorney yelled to the 2 nice ladies (choke) that work in the probate court: "We need a security guard! We need a security guard! She just threatened my clients!" When I looked around to see who threatened his clients (the d-bag from Huron & her husband) I realized the snake must have been talking about ME because I was the only she! My brother, who was at least 20 feet behind me heard what the snake said but didn't know that he was lying so he laughed and said: "What's the matter, Mister (the attorney), are you afraid of a 120 lb. woman? What do you think she's going to do --- beat you up?"

While walking down the courtroom steps, the security guards were running up spilling their coffee all over the steps. (some of it even splashed on my good skirt!) When I tried to tell them that I was their villian they wouldn't even listen to me! They said: "No, you're not, Ma'm, it's your brother." (??????)

I then went & stood outside with the employees from the courthouse that were out smoking. After all, I sure didn't want the jokes at the courthouse to say that I threatened anybody and then took off or anything. Pretty soon I saw them coming and to this day I laugh about it. One security guard had his hand on the snake attorney's arm, the other on the arm of the husband of the d-bag from Huron. She was in the middle acting like she was some kind of celebrity, a Martha Stewart or somebody. They were walking real fast and the security guards kept looking behind them like they were expecting to see some crazy mad man with a gun or something. (wish I could of taken a picture of it)

When they got outside, I stood in front of them & told the snake attorney to please tell the security guards that I was their villian but the snake wouldn't even look at me and once again the security guards wouldn't even listen to me! They just asked me to please move out of the way, saying: "Nobody ever said you threatened anybody, Miss."

Yep, once again I agree that keeping the Eeeerie County courthouse safe is an important job!

The Bizness

LOL thanks for a good laugh. Are you every happy, or are you always just angry and bitter?

Julie R.

That Lorain County attorney that yelled for a security guard was the snake that worked in collusion with my mother's Huron attorneys by preparing a fraud QuitClaims Deed to fraudulently transfer her half to her house in Huron seven months before her death ..... who also prepared a new fraud TOD Deed right after that defrauded her 4th beneficiary.

He's from Baxter & Co.'s favorite Lorain County law firm.

Julie R.

For somebody that never had any dealings with attorneys, judges, and courts prior to a case that never would have been had it not been for attorneys to begin with, I could probably write a book on all the illegal crap I witnessed at that Eeerie County courthouse over a more than ten-year period.

Here's another one that took place on the same day as that more than juvenile ~ if not comical ~ "we need a security guard" crap:

First off, I forgot. It was three parties that were illegally never notified of Hearings in the Probate Court, not two. A 3rd party wasn't even brought in on that scam sheriff sale that the Common Pleas Court pulled even though they knew the attorneys defrauded him. (which is noted in the title search report that denied title insurance to the realtor who bought the property)

Anyway, prior to that Probate Court Hearing (that the Probate Court didn't know I had been nofified of) I noticed how the Lorain County attorney and his two "clients" didn't have to sit in the waiting room with the rest of us peons --- they went straight to the Hearing Room and sat with the door open. I can remember thinking, wow, that attorney sure must have clout in Eeerie County. I then saw a magistrate from Roger Binette's court (Christopher Stallkamp) go into that room and say something to the attorney. Whatever he said, it sure made the attorney angry. He came storming out, followed by his 2 clients, and went to the elevator. When the elevator didn't come fast enough, he swore and him and his 2 "clients" went up the steps to the 3rd floor.

Now why would they go up to the 3rd floor when that's Tone's court? Gee, you don't suppose by some slim chance the attorney & his clients were having one of those illegal meetings (that the OHIO LAW flatly prohibits) with the Probate Court Judge and others, including maybe even Kevin Baxter, do ya? I would have to say they sure did. The Hearing was scheduled for 10:00 a.m. but it didn't start until they returned at 11:25.

Erie County Resident

I have one question for the powers that be ruling OUR county courthouse.
Why are the regular citizens of Erie County considered 2nd class citizens?
I have a continuing court proceeding going on and am treated like a criminal when I have to go there.
I can't take my cell phone (which contains a lot of what is needed during the hearing) that I am not allowed to take in with me. I can see screening people but this is over the top and there are other ways to handle it.
When I get to the floor I am to report to all I see are people sitting around on iPhones, iPads, laptops, Blackberries, etc. Now these are all lawyers, county employees and such.
So just WHY can ANY of them take anything in but us paupers can't???
Are they better than us regular citizens or are us lower life forms just considered 2nd class trash to them?
Smells like descrimination to me.
I can turn my phone on silent just like they do or are us commoners considered to stupid to do that?
We the people pay their bills and pay checks, so why this idiot policy?

Ralph J.

The people allowed the ruling class to decide what is right for us peons. Julie R exposed some problems in the probate court. Instead of helping Julie, most of you jump all over her. Look in the mirror people and ask yourself what you have done to help the people and not the ruling class.

Julie R.

Problems in the Probate Court?

Sorry, but I do so think it goes beyond that. A Probate Court giving attorneys, a crook Huron insurance agent and the manager of a Huron bank two years after an elderly, incompetent person's death to get everything left from contracts that were criminally changed before her death out of her name before filing a forged Will was just as criminal on the part of that Probate Court Judge as what those attorneys & the rest of that trash from Huron did.