Bar News - December 16, 2015
Morning Mail: New Court Security Policy ‘Absurd’
I am writing to request that the Bar take action in regard to the latest security rule established for the Circuit Courts of the State of New Hampshire.
On Nov. 16, 2015, I went to the 7th Circuit Court, Rochester District Division, to file a complaint. I walked in as I normally do and passed through the screening. The bailiff said, “good morning,” as usual and then, after I was two steps through, suddenly said, “wait a minute,” and he informed me that all attorneys were now being required to go through screening as were members of the general public.
I accepted this and went back and stood in line. As I waited my turn to get processed through and empty my pockets, I thought that it is not unreasonable for the courts to require screening by attorneys, even though we are officers of the court, because an attorney is just as likely to have a mental illness as any other person, and become a danger.
My opinion changed after I went through the screening and was handed a memorandum by the bailiff, which stated that the rule applied to “all attorneys (exceptions: County Attorney’s Office, Attorney General’s Office and law enforcement members)...” At this point, I became extremely irate. I believe that you should be extremely irate. I believe that all members of the bar should be extremely irate. Why is it that only prosecutorial attorneys and police officers are exempt? The distinction has no rational basis other than simple prejudice upon the part of the people making the decision.
All attorneys, prosecutors, public defenders and criminal and civil attorneys are officers of the court. There should be no distinction among us. Is there some sort of rationale that prosecutors and members of the Attorney General’s Office are inherently more trustworthy or more psychologically stable than other attorneys? If that is the case, how do we rate former prosecutors? I was a prosecutor 20 years ago. Am I more stable or more trustworthy than someone who has never been a prosecutor? How do I compare with someone who was a prosecutor 10 years ago? Is he or she inherently more trustworthy or stable than I am? Is the rationale that members of the Attorney General’s Office and county and municipal prosecutors are state or governmental employees, and therefore, inherently more trustworthy, or more stable? If that is the case, then what about public defenders, who are also paid with state funds? Shouldn’t they be considered exceptions to the screening process?
The entire policy is absurd. It is also an example of the ongoing and continuing disrespect for attorneys that we see both in the court system itself and in state government in general, and, unfortunately, among members of the public. I do not think that the Bar Association to which we are all required to belong as members should tolerate this kind of discrimination and disrespect.
Supposedly we are officers of the court. Because of that, we are held to a higher standard of conduct and performance then pro se litigants and members of the general public. Despite this obligation on our part, we are treated no differently in terms of our supposed trustworthiness and stability when we enter the court of which we are supposedly officers. I request that the Bar Association take up this issue either through the Committee on Cooperation with the Courts, or through such other forum as may be available. Thank you for your attention.