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Priority court access cards are snapped up

By Diane Curtis

Richard Knickerbocker is one of the lucky 1,500. Quick on the computer, he met the criteria (good State Bar standing, address of record in Los Angeles, an online State Bar profile and a working private e-mail address) to take part in a Court Priority Access card pilot program in Los Angeles.

The program, a partnership between the Los Angeles Superior Courts and the State Bar, will allow participants to enter courthouses via the employee weapons screening entrance.

“We are pleased to join with the State Bar in a project that reemphasizes our unfailing commitment to effective security,” said Presiding Judge Stephen Czuleger. “Attorneys have significant time constraints, and facilitating their courthouse access will help them to better represent their clients.”

Within 48 hours of the Aug. 1 invitation date, the 1,500 pilot program spots were snapped up. Participants will be issued a photo identification card this fall that will give them priority access and they’ll be surveyed periodically by the State Bar about the program. The court will set the date for the expedited court access to begin and will establish how the program will work under court rules. It also will be consulted periodically to determine whether the program should be expanded.

“I am pleased at the overwhelming response of the Los Angeles lawyers to this opportunity,” said bar President Sheldon Sloan, who promoted the pilot program. “We had hoped that it would be well received, but the fact that we totally subscribed in less than 48 hours after we made the announcement is strong evidence that the members of our bar want programs of this type.”

Knickerbocker and others heartily agree and note the benefit of such a program to clients and justice. “Every wasted minute costs a client money,” said the Santa Monica attorney. Unpredictable waits in the regular security lines also pose a possible disadvantage to a tardy lawyer’s client, he added. “If the client’s not there, it may be a problem. But if the lawyer’s not there, it surely is a problem . . . If you miss the appearance, the judge may call your case and rule against your client.”

The idea is not new. Knickerbocker says he goes to courthouses, such as one in Norwalk, where attorneys get priority access. Manley Freid, a family law attorney in Los Angeles, said he’s been sped through the security lines in San Diego and Ventura counties and in Van Nuys and other districts. “So this is not some ingenious, creative idea. It’s just following up on what everybody else in the boondocks should be following us on.”

Freid, who goes to court three or four times a week, said he hopes the security priority includes allowing him not to have to lift boxes of legal documents onto a scanning machine and then packing them up again. “If they make us take the boxes and put them onto a totally separate machine, then it’s what I call a B-minus job,” he said. But B-minus or not, he said he’s the lucky one in his firm for getting his application in early. His colleagues, he said, are lamenting that they weren’t as fast in taking advantage of the priority card opportunity.

Attorneys who do not have online profiles should register on the home page, calbar.ca.gov. Call the Member Services Center at 1-888-800-3400 for further information.

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