Talkin' about a revolution. It's been 35 years since the Justice Center opened here in Cleveland, housing both the county's common pleas court and the city's municipal courts. I've chronicled its failings before, like in this post from earlier this year. (The one about the Justice Center is the second story down.) But the Powers In Charge really outdid themselves on Wednesday.
As I mentioned in the earlier story, 9:00 AM is when it's happenin' at the JC: the masses descend upon the building for their pretrials, arraignments, traffic hearings, or whatever, where they're funneled into a line to go through a solitary metal detector at each of the two entrances. Employees and lawyers are spared this process: we simply walk past the detector and hold our ID up to a scanner, then go on our way.
Until Wednesday. I was scheduled for trial -- which, in Cuyahoga County, means that there is at least a 10% chance that it will actually be held -- but despite those daunting odds, decided to get there about 10 minutes before that. At which point I found that the scanner was closed down: now, all empl0yees and attorneys had to go through the metal detector, just like everybody else.
In the immortal words of Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny, "What a fuckin' nightmare." I had to wait in line for 30 minutes to get through the detector. Several lawyers just left, secure in the knowledge that in this county, a "9:00 Pretrial" in a criminal case means "show up sometime before noon." Several people didn't take kindly to the new procedure, and the deputies actually handed out several tickets for disorderly conduct to those they felt were too strident in their complaints. The disembarkation from the Titanic after it hit the iceberg was done in a more orderly fashion than this.
And in addition to being a nightmare, it was a disaster. My client didn't get up to the courtroom until 10. It didn't matter, because the judge was in trial with another case. And that didn't matter, because three of the jurors in that case didn't get through until more than an hour after the trial was supposed to start.
This isn't going to be the way it is done from now on, we found out; this will only be instituted on a random basis. How random? Don't know; some deputies told me it would be once a week. And, of course, since it's random, you don't know which day it's going to be: you could come over to the Justice Center for your 9:00 pretrial, only to find out that the dice had come up snake eyes and you should've been there 45 minutes earlier to avoid standing in line. My guess is that a couple more "random" procedures like this, and the one after that is going to resemble the storming of the Bastille.
I suppose it could be worse. Back in 2005, the Ohio legislature passed the state's version of the PATRIOT act, and included a requirement that anyone doing business with the state had to sign a certification that they were not giving material aid to any terrorist organization. The minions at the Bellefontaine Municipal Court, apparently concerned that attorneys were working hand in glove with al Qaeda to replace the government of our Founding Fathers with an Islamic caliphate, mandated that attorneys who wanted to sign up for appointment for indigent counsel had to sign the form. Even the Supreme Court found that was a bit over the top, and granted a writ of prohibition.
In other news. Actually, I guess I shouldn't complain too loudly about what happened at the Justice Center. The new procedures adopted by the Transportation Security Administration for screening at airports -- the "full body scanner" and the more intrusive body search -- has generated a firestorm. And whereas previous firestorms would result in something like, oh... the storming of the Bastille (supra), now it just results in lots and lots of people blogging about it. Or sending out press releases; as the always entertaining LegalBlogwatch tells us, a group called "Americans for Truth About Homosexuality" -- and I can't think of anything I am more desperate to learn the truth about -- has scoffed at Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano's assurance that the patdowns, which will now have agents venturing into previously forbidden areas, such as the genitals and breasts, will be performed only by "same-gender" personnel. What if, the ATAH points out, the agent is gay? The ignominy of having to stand in line for an hour, take off your shoes and belt, dump your keys and change into a bin, would only be deepened by the horrr of realizing that the burly agent working his fingers inexorably toward the family jewels is deriving some secret pleasure from it.