CHICAGO (CN) - An out-of-county attorney sick of watching members of the Will County Bar stroll into a courthouse, while he and other nonmembers wait in "long, time-consuming security lines with the general public," filed a federal class action against the Will County Sheriff and the county Bar Association.
Gary Peterlin, of LaSalle County - two counties west of Will - says the defendant Will County Sherriff's Office recently began requiring attorneys who are not a member of the Will County Bar Association to "wait in long, time-consuming security lines with the general public and pass through metal detection equipment subjecting the attorneys to a search of their person and belongings."
Peterlin, who says the new rule violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, seeks a return to better days.
For many years, lawyers could enter the Will County Courthouse without going through security by displaying a card issued by the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, he says.
Now, alas, out-of-county attorneys must go through screening, while Will County Bar Association members "have the freedom and privilege to access the courthouse through a separate, exclusive entrance and bypass security for no other reason than they have paid expensive membership dues, a mandatory legal aid assessment and an optional bar association identification care fee," Peterlin says.
One time, Peterlin says, after waiting in line, he was turned away from the courthouse "because he had a mobile phone that contained a camera component. Upon his return, he proceeded in the security line all over again."
Peterlin claims that he and several other attorneys "have been forced to purchase membership in the Will County Bar Association, an organization they would not otherwise join, to their expense and financial detriment just for the privilege of bypassing the security procedures of the Will County Courthouse."
Upon joining, he says, the Will County Bar Association told him "that he could benefit from other privileges not conferred upon the disfavored group of attorneys, including the ability to bring recording devices, cell phones, and cameras into the courthouse."
Peterlin insists that "the distinctions between the two groups of lawyers bear no rational relationship to promoting and securing courthouse safety or any other legitimate governmental purpose, leading the policies and procedures of the defendants to violate the Equal Protection Clause."
He asks the court to enjoin the Will County Sheriff's Department from enforcing the discriminatory policy.
He is represented by Morgan Pytynia-Klein with the Law Offices of Peter F. Ferracuti - of Ottawa, Ill., the seat of LaSalle County.
Will County's seat is Joliet.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.