Wednesday, July 25, 2007
State Bar’s Priority Access Card Pilot Program Set to Launch Aug. 1
By TINA BAY, Staff Writer
Lawyers in Los Angeles will soon have a chance to obtain special identification cards that will give them priority access to the county’s courthouses, State Bar President Sheldon Sloan said yesterday.
Starting Aug. 1, he explained, all State Bar members with Los Angeles zip codes listed in their member profiles will be contacted by the organization and offered the opportunity to participate in its “court priority access card” pilot program. The card would allow attorneys to be bumped up to the front of courthouse security lines, eliminating the need to wait for entry behind the general public.
The first 1,500 to request a priority access card in accordance with certain requirements will participate in the program, which is set to run for up to three years.
Members will be able to request a priority access card through the “My State Bar Profile” profile function on the State Bar’s Web site, www.calbar.ca.gov.
The organization has created an agreement with FedEx Kinko’s under which members may go to any of the company’s stores and have a standardized passport-type picture taken, then uploaded to the Web site to be placed on the card.
The priority card will be issued each year to participating members, provided the member’s address of record remains in participating Los Angeles zip codes, and the member stays in good standing, and complies with dues and continuing legal education requirements.
Sloan said the program was his idea, and explained that he originally proposed State Bar members be given priority upon the presentation of a State Bar card along with photo identification.
But court officials felt that approach would be too cumbersome, he said, which led to the idea of creating an entirely separate photo identification card. The idea was presented to Los Angeles Superior Court Executive Officer John Clarke, and Clarke then took it to the court’s executive committee, which approved it, Sloan said.
The impetus for the pilot program was simple, he remarked.
“Many of us are tired of standing in line for half an hour or 45 minutes to get through security when we have hearings. We felt that since all court personnel and D.A.’s and public defenders, et cetera, were entitled to use the various special lines at various courthouses…there was no reason why lawyers who have court business shouldn’t be accorded the same ability.”
‘Beneficial’ to Court
In the end, Sloan added, the program will be “beneficial to the court itself, because it saves the court time from having attorneys come late and it makes for an orderly call on the calendar.”
Sloan noted he disagreed with former State Bar President Jim Heiting’s idea that lawyers should be allowed to skirt all courthouse security lines.
“I always felt that was impractical, that no one should skirt a sec line, not a judge or anyone else because of the possibility of people bringing in weapons,” he said. “My idea was always to limit to get to the front of the line, and I think there’s a big difference.”
Sloan said running the program would not cost members anything initially, and that it was within the State Bar’s current budget.
If the pilot program turns out to be satisfactory, it will probably become permanent, he said. Moreover, the State Bar will propose it to the Judicial Council of California to be considered for statewide implementation, he added.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company