Bar News - June 22, 2007
Security Pilot Project Opens the Door to Attorneys
By: Dan Wise
Joseph Caulfield was one of the first attorneys to participate in the expedited security screening at Hillsborough County South on June 11.
On June 11, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office began a pilot project to test an expedited screening process for members of the Bar entering courthouses in the state.
The project, which began more than a year ago, is the product of close collaboration between Sheriff James Hardy and NHBA President Richard B. McNamara. Their goal was to develop a secure screening alternative that would allow all attorneys—not just prosecutors or law enforcement officers—to bypass the standard weapons’ screening stations.
“I am pleased that we are implementing this pilot program to reduce wait times for screening and also enhance a neutral environment at the courthouse,” said Sheriff Hardy. “We will be assessing and monitoring the program during this trial period and make adjustments as needed. I am committed to maintaining a high level of security and safety for members of the public and staff inside the courthouse.”
The alternative process does require that attorneys have an identifiable photo on file with the NHBA, and that they sign a statement vowing compliance with various security precautions, including the right of the sheriff’s office to conduct a random weapons’ screening at any time. To participate in the pilot project, attorneys obtain a magnetic card, issued by the sheriff’s office, which is swiped by a sensor at a door near the screening station in the courthouse. The card is then “read” by a computer that pulls up the attorney’s information and photo on a screen visible to a court officer, who then unlocks the door remotely.
Sheriff Hardy, along with McNamara, believes the alternative entry process will reduce lines during busy times, but more important, will minimize incidents of differential treatment of officers of the court in security procedures. Under current practice in most courts in NH, jurors and witnesses see that defense attorneys must wait in line and be screened for weapons, while attorneys and law enforcement officers representing the prosecution are waved through without screening.
“I am pleased that we have been finally been able to bring this project, so important to the fair administration of justice, to fruition,” said McNamara. “Great credit belongs to Sheriff Hardy, who has been instrumental in the process. He is a public servant who is dedicated to the rule of law, and to making sure that courts remain places where the law can be fairly and impartially applied. The Bar owes a debt of gratitude to him.”
The card-reading equipment was first tested on June 11. Members of the Nashua area bar, contacted via e-mail messages sent to the Nashua Bar Association, came to the courthouse and signed security agreements with the sheriff’s office. Those attorneys whose photos were already on file (and posted on the Bar’s Web site Member Directory) were immediately given the magnetic cards.
The next opportunity for attorneys who regularly appear at Hillsborough South Superior Court to obtain security access cards at the Nashua courthouse will be on the following dates:
Tuesday, June 26
Thursday, June 28
between 9:00 - 11:00 am
To obtain the security access card, the Bar members must already have a photo on the NHBA Web site and they must sign an agreement to abide by all security procedures. (Attorneys who have not yet submitted photos for the Bar Web site and ID cards are encouraged to do so as soon as possible, but there will be a timelag of at least three to six weeks between the posting on the Bar’s Web site and the updating of the Sheriff’s identification database.) Information about future opportunities to obtain access cards will be provided at the courthouse, through the NHBA e-Bulletin e-mail newsletter and other avenues of communication.
Any NHBA member in good standing is eligible to participate in the pilot screening project, but the Nashua superior court building is the only site in operation. Sheriff Hardy said that, based on the results of the pilot project, he will consider extending it to the other Hillsborough county courthouses.
McNamara said he hopes the Nashua pilot project becomes a model to be emulated elsewhere. “I am hopeful that in years to come, we can show, through the success of the Hillsborough County pilot project, the advantages to streamlining security procedures for lawyers, and expand it to other parts of the state,” McNamara said.
The NHBA President also lauded the cooperation of Kevin Rauseo, the Hillsborough County South representative on the Board of Governors, and Nashua Bar Association president Randall Wilbert, in helping to spread the word about the pilot project.
Kevin Rauseo, the Hillsborough County South representative on the NHBA Board of Governors, was the first attorney to test the new attorney security screening process at the Nashua Superior Court building.
Hillsborough Cunty Sheriff James Hardy was instrumental in creating the security screening project at the Nashua Superior Court Building.