Belts come off at Dakota County Courthouse

  • Article by: KATIE HUMPHREY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 17, 2011 - 5:20 PM

Local attorneys' appeal for exemption from courthouse security denied by board.

Going to court in Dakota County? Be ready to remove your belt -- even if you're an attorney.

Despite repeated pleas from members of the Dakota County Bar Association to relax the rules for lawyers, the County Board decided in a meeting peppered with courtroom-style oratory and punctuated by weapons demonstrations that security at the courthouse in Hastings will stay exactly as it is.

"You are fine individuals, male and female, but I don't know why I should single you out instead of somebody else," Commissioner Joe Harris said after hearing a request that lawyers be exempted from the security screening at the courthouse door.

Lawyer Paul Rogosheske offered, "We're not a security threat. We are screened when we get our bar card." Especially on Monday mornings, when it takes 5 to 10 minutes to get through the line, he said, "it would speed things up tremendously."

The attorneys said officers in other counties often wave attorneys around the security screening.

But Dakota County Sheriff Dave Bellows said that's contrary to any metro county's policy and advocated that anyone coming to the courthouse -- except county employees and others, such as judges, with offices in the courthouse -- be subject to the same screening.

Rebuffed on a general exemption, the lawyers lobbied for the ability to keep their belts on at the door, saying no other counties require that all belts come off.

"Removing your belt causes needless embarrassment and humiliation in public to all our citizens," lawyer Michael McNabb said.

Commissioners weren't convinced. "I don't see that anybody has ever died of embarrassment from removing their belt," Nancy Schouweiler said. "I see there is potential of people having great bodily harm by [someone] not removing their belt."

Armed with props to prove that point, Cmdr. John Grant of the Dakota County Sheriff's Office brandished assorted shivs, metal and plastic, that had been concealed in belts and might only have been detected through an x-ray scanner.

"This will kill you, just like anything else," he said, waving a sharpened shard of plastic.

It's like the airport, Commissioner Liz Workman said: Everybody goes through screening, like it or not.

"If you know this is the way it is at Dakota County, why don't you simply come prepared for it?" she said. "This is not that invasive."

Katie Humphrey • 952-746-3286

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