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Saturday, May 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Top Cop Bristles at|Special Law for Lawyers

CLAYTON, Mo. (CN) - The county police chief bristled at two lawmaking lawyers' proposed law that would exempt attorneys from going through metal detectors at the St. Louis County Courthouse, which has a history of violence.

State Representatives Timothy Jones, R-Eureka, and Mike Colona, D-St. Louis, both attorneys, proposed a bill that would apply only to the St. Louis County Courthouse. It would allow attorneys to bypass the security checkpoint.

The bipartisan duo claims it would ease congestion and spare members of the Bar from partially disrobing before arguing a case.

Though St. Louis County officials deny it, the court's metal detectors are a sensitive topic for those who go through them regularly.

Lawyers, members of the media and others with business in the court routinely have to remove belts, shoes and jewelry, and empty their pockets. The disrobing is so pronounced there is a designated area beyond the metal detectors where court-goers can sit and put their clothes back on before moving on to the courts.

Court officials, possibly remembering a shooting that happened at the courthouse 20 years ago, do support the proposal.

In May 1992, Kenneth Baumruk, then 53, pulled two guns from his briefcase inside the courthouse and shot and killed his wife just before their divorce hearing. He wounded four others.

Several years ago, a man brought a box cutter into the courthouse. It was discovered without incident, and led to a recalibration of the court's metal detectors.

"It almost sounds to me like the lawyers don't want to have to wait in line for security because they are lawyers," St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch, whose agency oversees court security, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "Would it be the same lawyers that would turn around and sue us for having a policy that allowed something bad to happen?"

Fitch also took a shot at another Colona bill, which involves medical marijuana.

"If his bills pass," Fitch told the Post-Dispatch, "you could be a stoned lawyer entering the courthouse, unscreened."

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