Fresno, California criminal-defense attorney Rick Horowitz won, and he hadn’t even entered the courtroom.
As he approached a very familiar courthouse in his jurisdiction, Rick watched as another attorney cruised-through security in the usual, smooth fashion.
Once Rick reached the gate, anticipating a similar and anticipated stroll through the metal detectors, the game changed.
“You have to empty your pockets.”
“What?,” I asked.
“You have to empty your pockets.”
The officer said something about a new security issue or something along those lines. He stated that they were making all court personnel and attorneys empty their pockets now.
“A court person went through just ahead of me,” I said, motioning in the direction the prosecutor had gone. “You didn’t check her.”
And then one of them told me it was because of my blog post yesterday. He even specifically referenced the sentence that they found so offensive. “So now you’re a security risk,” I was told.
So, he wrote something, which he admits was intentionally offensive (that he later retracted upon further reflection of its magnitude of offensiveness). Because somebody in the courthouse security/law enforcement community was offended, they labeled Rick a security risk. Even worse, there was an unhealthy vibe among these officers.
At any rate, the overreaction of the department today shows just how dangerous they can be. And, in fact, I suspect that’s just the start. It will not surprise me if something happens to me for what I’ve written. At least a few attorneys — including me — think that there was a plan in place this morning to set up a situation where I could be given a beatdown, which almost certainly would have been followed by criminal charges against me for “resisting arrest,” or “assaulting an officer,” or something similar to that. Because that happens to more people than you could possibly imagine, more often than you would believe. And, as I said, there is reason to believe they were trying to set it up — reason enough that another attorney decided to stick around “just in case.” (Which is probably why it didn’t happen.)
His is a win because we are caused to think about a few things:
- If someone is offended at something you say, they can screw with you and make your life difficult. This can happen even if they are paid with your tax dollars and purport to operate to support and defend the Constitution.
- Those with actual government authority can retaliate against us in ways that make our life difficult, even if they are merely offended and you did nothing legally wrong.
- Law enforcement is necessary and beneficial, but there is the constant danger of them operating with the mentality of a fraternity or pack. When they stray, they still wield power and authority. We protect ourselves by being vigilant and keeping our cool.
- The fellow attorney who stayed in the area “just in case” deserves a drink, or lunch, or, hell, even a fruit smoothie (I hope you comported to this appropriately, Rick.). There are occasionally events that show that we lawyers, even those who compete for the same business, are a pretty darned tight-knit group. This was one of those times. Celebrate it, and then demonstrate it more often.
- We must constantly remind government officials that we are watching them.
- We are caused to ask ourselves this: What if Rick was completely alone with the several officers at the security check?
I make it no secret that Rick is my friend, and here he did so much for us by keeping his cool and then fighting back with free speech. Because of that, we all notice. Because of that, we can talk about it. Because of that, the officers in that courthouse know they are being watched. Because of that, Rick wins.
Though, in possible defense of the officers, they may have been offended by so much aquamarine. Rick, you never go full aquamarine.
And, that’s my gift back to you.