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Time to Fight Back?

Today’s newspaper brings the inane story of attorney Rick Berman being threatened with criminal charges for attempting to get into a courthouse without removing his watch.

According to the story, Berman is a former chief deputy district attorney for the Fresno County District Attorney’s office. These days he’s a private attorney, handling both criminal and civil cases. Quite successful at it, too. And in 2008, he was named one of the Top 100 trial lawyers in California by the American Trial Lawyers Association.

Unfortunately, Berman’s troubled past muddies things up a bit. Did the guardians of the justice center brown-shirts at the Madera County Superior Court want to search him because of his tainted past as a District Attorney? After all, the only known security issue I’m aware of from Madera involved a Madera District Attorney who torched the building.

But, no, it can’t be that. Despite the prior experience Madera has with lawyers from the Madera District Attorney’s Office, those lawyers are still exempt from the requirement that they be searched before entering the building.

It must be because he’s one of those nasty criminal defense types. Who cares that attorneys are more carefully screened before being given a license to practice than are the brown-shirts at the Madera Superior Court? Who cares that more police officers commit violent crimes against others on a daily basis than attorneys?

It’s not about safety, folks. Don’t ever let yourself be fooled into thinking it’s about safety.

It’s about power. The brown-shirts have it; the rest of us don’t. It’s as simple as that. As I frequently tell other people, the problem is that they have guns and most of us don’t. And as another story in today’s Fresno Bee reminds us, they aren’t afraid to use them.

One of these days, lawyers are going to realize that by refusing to stand up for the Fourth Amendment because “we have other fights to fight,” we’ve gotten our own selves into this mess. Perhaps if all the attorneys entering the Madera Superior Court decided now is the time to fight, no one would have to remove a watch just to gain access to justice be allowed in the building.

After that, we can start to work on the access to justice problem.

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