Category Archive 'The Security State'

04 May 2010

Supreme Court Abandons Using Front Door

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A lot of taxpayers’ money was wasted on this impressive entrance

Yahoo News:

The Supreme Court is closing its iconic front entrance beneath the words “Equal Justice Under Law.”

Beginning Tuesday, visitors no longer will ascend the wide marble steps to enter the 75-year-old building. Instead, they will be directed to a central screening facility to the side of and beneath the central steps that was built to improve the court’s security as part of a $122 million renovation.

Two justices, Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, called the change unfortunate and unjustified.

Breyer said no other high court in the world, not even Israel’s, has closed its front entrance over security concern. …

Other justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts, have spoken fondly of being able to walk up the steps and through the 1,300-pound bronze doors at the center of the court’s columned entryway. Justice Anthony Kennedy told C-SPAN last year that the steps and the words, written by building architect Cass Gilbert, were intended to inspire visitors and justices alike.

The court said the new entrance grew out of two independent security studies in 2001 and 2009.

The fortress-mentality that has taken over all the court houses I’ve visited in recent years has finally reached the Supreme Court of the United States.

The monumental entrance is just not ideally conducive to electronic searches, so it will no longer be used for its intended purpose.

In my lifetime, we’ve gone from the America of Norman Rockwell to the Amerika of Franz Kafka and the security state that makes you remove shoes in airport boarding lines. Arriving visitors and attorneys will get to slink in some subterranean bunker entrance where they can be properly channeled through security stops. Our courthouses are not open to the public any longer. Who knows? Someone might try to rebel and attack the authorities. All our officials need constant protection from us.

I can remember just a bit over a decade ago being in the Clinton County Courthouse in Lock Haven (Pennsylvania) researching a few deeds in the Recorder’s Office. There were some good old boys in camouflage, their shotguns leaning on the wall, practicing turkey calls in the corridor while the ladies in the sheriff’s office critiqued their performances through the open doorway.

Today, you get searched every time you walk into a courthouse. The first time I ran into this kind of crap outside the big city was in Danbury, Connecticut in the mid-1990s. The rent-a-cop demanded I remove my belt, and in my outrage and frustration I delivered an indignant ex tempore sermon on the subject of the decline of freedom in the United States to the general population in the hallway.

The security guard scoldingly informed me that I should be grateful that he was protecting a mere civilian like me against someone coming into the building with a gun and injuring me. He then warned me against openly challenging official policies.

My wife wasn’t present, and I got a little more angry.

“Why exactly is somebody carrying a gun such a big deal?” I deliberately responded. “You have a gun, you little pipsqueak.” I observed, “I don’t, and I’m not afraid of you.” I then leaned toward him, invading his personal space and grinned, implicitly offering him an invitation to reach for it, feeling quite sure I could swat him before he could clear his holster. He thought seriously about it for a few seconds, and decided not to try.

I got some mixed reactions from the crowd. Several people gave me some very fishy looks. A few guys grinned. The security guard did his best to look intensely occupied, and the moment passed.

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