There's a new security rule in the state courthouses. At least I think there is a new rule. As with so many security measures, practices across the state are inconsistent. It's maddening.
I was asked the other day in Bridgeport to show my bar card. The request surprised me. So far as I know, bar association identification cards aren't mandatory. The only reason I carry one is that it is virtually impossible to get into an out-of-state prison without one. (Unless, of course, you commit a crime in that state; then leaving is difficult.)
I generally try to oblige the marshals. They are overworked, underpaid and stressed.
"Why?" I asked, surprised by the request to see my bar card.
"You will have to take your belt off if you don't have one."
I gave my best WTF look.
"New rules," I was told. "We know you are an attorney, but …"
I zoned out on the rest of the answer, and showed the card.
I passed through metal detectors in state courthouses in several other cities that week. No one carded me at those doors.
So what gives?
Some rules are enforced in every courthouse. Did you know that in order to visit an inmate in one of the state's lockups, you need to sign a form acknowledging that you understand that the prisoner has a right not to be sexually assaulted? It's one of the most asinine things I've ever seen.
Just how many lawyers were visiting prisoners for the purposes of scratching the primal itch? What's more, don't the geniuses who create these forms realize that most visiting areas in the courthouse lockups separate prisoners from visitors by a Plexiglas screen and wall?
Just how randy do the big shots making these rules think we lawyers are?
Things are just as crazy in the federal courts, but, being federal courts, folks have more time on their hands, and they take violation of the rules as a federal offense.
After being carded in Bridgeport one day in the state court, I wandered over to federal court. No bar card could save me the requirement of taking off my belt to pass it through the metal detector. In the meantime, federal prosecutors strolled on by as if they own the place; in a manner of speaking, I guess they do.
My visiting privileges for federal detainees were nearly suspended several years ago. When requested to sign in to visit with a prisoner in a no-contact holding cell, I'd routinely sport with the form.
What prisoner was I visiting? I generally wrote in George Bush, or the name of some other prominent Republican. And I was from the firm of Beelzebub, Lucifer and Satan. On creative days, I'd sign in as Clarence Darrow, the same name I write in on my ballot in every congressional election. (Rosa DeLauro has a lock on my district and doesn't need my vote.)
A nasty marshal must have actually read the sign-in sheet one day, after years of such mischief. I was told that if I did it again, I'd be in trouble, big trouble.
Sometime soon I suspect we'll have secret handshakes and mandatory decoder rings we'll need to use to enter the courthouses of the state. It all seems silly and demeaning.
I understand the need for courthouse security, but, candidly, I can't recall the last time a lawyer tried to sexually assault a client in a no-contact cell, or tried to smuggle a weapon into a courtroom.
Of course, I don't exercise my Second Amendment right to carry a firearm. If I did, I suppose I'd make a federal case of all this. In the meantime, I'll just grin and bear the foolishness, and try not to oppress the poor marshals assigned the task of enforcing this churlish nonsense.