OCBA UPDATE: The Attorneys-Only line is back at Circuit Court

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For those who have requested, cajoled and begged for your bar association to try and establish an attorneys-only line to enter the Circuit courthouse on motion day ... the news is good. Starting March 1, 2019, on motion days (Wednesdays) only, the north entrance will have a designated attorneys-only line. Look for the signs as you enter the north entrance on motion days herding attorneys to the right side, into the attorneys-only line.

Hence, you will no longer have to stand behind Aunt Phyllis as she struggles with the deputy trying to pry her pocketbook out of her arms. However, you will need to have your Michigan bar card available and take off your belt and overcoat.

We are optimistic the new line will expedite entry for lawyers and assist the deputies who will not have to look for phones in the attorneys-only line.

Attorneys still must go through security screening. People have demanded, complained and lamented (also whined) that attorneys should not have to be screened at all. That we should have key passes, like court employees, so we can whiz through security, without the perceived indignity of taking off our darn belts, overcoats and/or taking our machetes back to our cars. Did I say machete?

The plain truth is the world has changed. These days, for the safety of all, (including us lawyers) we simply cannot have weapons in the courthouse. Sounds simple enough. Moreover, it is a court order. I know – some courts in the hinterlands do not search lawyers. So what – ours does. This is never going to change. 

Notably, some people who happen to be lawyers continue to thwart the court order and attempt to bring weapons into the courthouse. In the first week of December 2018, when I was in the throes of attempting to negotiate this new benefit for our members, an attorney stubbornly refused to have his bag checked. He cited the sanctity of the work product of his client, his privacy, constitutional protections, his God-given rights and a host of other reasons to deny the deputy access to his bag. When he finally assented, it became evident this lawyer was attempting to hide something in his bag.

The deputies found a five-inch, fully functional, spring-activated knife. Thanks, pal!

I have been advised that the last time (not the first time) a machete was discovered at the security checkpoint, a lawyer was transporting it. And, no, it was not an exhibit. Indeed, attorneys brought in five of the last seven handguns. Deputies also discovered 60 edged weapons and five cans of mace/pepper spray on attorneys attempting to enter the courthouse. Through December 5, 2018, deputies discovered 3,473 edged weapons on persons seeking entry into the Circuit Court (for examples, see the picture below, which previously appeared in Circuit Court Administrator Kevin Oeffner’s April 2016 LACHES column). Deputies have also found 210 containers of mace/pepper spray on persons entering the Circuit Court. Belts are often used to hide forbidden items. Four razor blades and four buckle knives have been hidden in belts worn by persons attempting to enter the courthouse. Deputies also have found handcuff keys hidden in belts. Think of these facts the next time you feel a tad incensed by being asked to take off your belt or present your bar card.

In order for this benefit to be of value to all, we must attempt to implement a simple protocol when using the attorneys-only line on motion days. First, have your bar card out and available for review before you enter the attorney line. (THIS BEARS REPEATING – HAVE YOUR BAR CARD OUT BEFORE GETTING IN LINE). Remove your overcoat and belt. Show the deputy your bar card in advance of arrival at the security gate. This will clue in the deputies that they need not take the time to investigate whether you have a phone. Please adopt this protocol to make entry for lawyers into the courthouse as expeditious and hassle-free as possible.

P.S. Special thanks to Chief Judge Shalina Kumar, Judge Jim Alexander, Court Administrator Kevin Oeffner, and Captain Doug Molinar of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department for their assistance on this matter.

P.S.S. This privilege is just another attempt to increase the value of your membership in the Oakland County Bar Association.
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James J. Parks, Jaffe, Raitt, Heuer, & Weiss PC, is the 86th president of the Oakland County Bar Association.