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Tuesday, June 25, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

No, Thanks,|I’m a Lawyer

Every day I go to the St. Louis County Courthouse and have the same routine - empty pockets, take off belt and proceed through the metal detectors.

I never have a problem. Sure, taking my belt off is not the most convenient thing in the world. But every night when I get home safely to my wife and kids, that hassle doesn't seem like any sacrifice at all.

But now, a shortsighted law proposed in the Missouri Legislature might change that. Two state representatives who are also lawyers - Republican Tim Jones and Democrat Mike Colona - sponsored a bill that would allow members of the state Bar to bypass the court's metal detectors. The law would apply only to the St. Louis County Courthouse, which by the way was the scene of a fatal shooting 20 years ago. Evidently, these two think lawyers are too good for basic safety measures.

Their holier-than-thou attitude was reflected in Colona's statement to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "It's not that lawyers are this special group of people who should get special privileges. We are less of a security risk going through than the average citizen law enforcement is not familiar with."


Maybe Colona has been too busy trying to pass self-serving laws to pay attention to what his legal brethren have been up to. Here's a quick recap of lawyers gone wild:

Prominent attorney F. Lee Bailey was disbarred in Florida and Massachusetts and eventually jailed for contempt for his handling of his client's, Claude DuBoc's, stock in a high-profile marijuana case.

G. Patrick Stanton was disbarred in West Virginia in 2010 for falsely claiming to represent a woman so he could visit her in jail. A guard walked in on Stanton receiving oral sex from the woman in the visiting area, court records state.

Thomas Finneran, a former speaker of the Massachusetts House, was disbarred in 2010 after pleading guilty to federal obstruction of justice.

Michigan lawyer Geoffrey Fieger called three judges on the state's Court of Appeals "jackasses" and said on his radio show, "I declare war on you. You declare it on me, I declare it on you. Kiss my ass, too," Courthouse News reported in 2009. The rant was in response to the court's reversing a $15 million judgment for one of his clients.

If that doesn't satisfy our esteemed representatives, maybe these local examples will:

Prominent St. Louis area attorney Tom Lakin pleaded guilty in 2008 to federal charges of possession with the intent to deliver cocaine, distributing cocaine to a person under 21 and maintaining a drug-involved premises. Lakin is serving a six-year sentence.

Eric Tolen, a former federal prosecutor, is serving a 65-year sentence for molesting five teen-age boys. He was convicted of 36 counts of statutory sodomy and one count of witness tampering in a 2008 trial.

Dennis Nalick killed himself last year rather than attend his federal sentencing hearing for stealing $137,000 from a client. His body was found in his SUV, parked in his garage with the motor running.

This is just a small sampling of lawyers gone wild. Clearly, this isn't a group immune from the criminal element, as Colona would lead us to believe. In this short list, we have a man who declared war on judges, a drug dealer, a pedophile and a suicidal thief. Sound like the type who should be above suspicion?

Courtrooms are the scene of many emotionally charged and financially lucrative battles. What's to stop a lawyer who believes a certain judge has it out for him to take a gun and try for revenge, without a metal detector as a deterrent?

The solution is easy, which is probably why our esteemed representatives couldn't figure it out. Almost every day there are two metal detectors at the entrance of the courthouse, with a guard at each one. Four more guards stand just beyond the detectors, talking, gossiping or catching up on what happened the night before. How about giving those guards a metal-detecting wand? Instead of holding up the entire line by making a person go through the detector five or six times, make a policy that if a person is unsuccessful going through the detector twice, then wand them. It works at every other court I've been to, and manpower is certainly not an issue.

Attorneys who feel they are inconvenienced could help by showing up 10 minutes earlier and perhaps advise their clients not to wear the Mr. T. starter set to court. Court employees and media folks like me don't ask for special perks at the courthouse and we are there every day. Most lawyers have to deal with the court's metal detectors a few times a week at most.

Our lawmakers should spend more time on issues such as our economy, funding education and reducing prison overcrowding. You know: Representing us instead of themselves.

What a concept.

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