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    Courthouse Security: The Need for Greater Thought

    security person

    In “Improve Courthouse Security: Screen All Visitors” (Wisconsin Lawyer, April 2019), Judge Thomas J. Walsh wrote, “Reports from counties in which all courthouse visitors are screened prove that dangerous implements are coming to the doors of Wisconsin’s courthouses, and screening inside is interdicting many of those implements.” As a result, he believes installing security screening at all Wisconsin courthouse entrances is worth the tradeoffs in cost and convenience.

    A reader wrote in. What do you think? Email org wislawmag wisbar wisbar wislawmag org.

    Reader: As a practicing attorney in Marathon County and someone who knew attorney Sara Quirt, I can appreciate the need for greater security in our courthouses. I couldn’t agree more with your statement that courthouse security is “an issue of public safety for the whole community.” My colleagues and I have been in court on several occasions and had to call for security to assist with a potentially dangerous situation.

    As you note in your article, though, local courthouses routinely house other county departments such as the register of deeds and the like. So if a member of the public comes to pay their property taxes or observe a county board meeting, should they be subject to this intense scrutiny?

    Further, many courthouses are not designed to accommodate these new security measures. For example, Marathon County, when implementing the new security measures, moved the entrance for persons with disabilities, making it difficult for individuals who have physical limitations to access the courthouse. The wheelchair ramp is now on the opposite side of the only courthouse entrance. Disabled individuals now have to ring a bell at a side door and wait for court security to escort them through the building to the secured area where they are screened.

    I suggest that more thought be given to these added security measures to achieve the purpose of protecting members of the community and still provide access to vital government operations, particularly the justice system, which already seems out of reach for many.

    Kimberly Haas
    Executive Director, Wisconsin Judicare Inc., Wausau

    Author response: I am hoping that you did not take from my article that I was proposing thoughtlessness in implementation of courthouse security. In fact, I think I mentioned that many courthouses, including ours in Brown County, are not designed for such procedures and that appropriate planning needs to be undertaken.

    I was not aware of the issues in the Marathon County Courthouse regarding disabled individuals, but I am aware of the modifications done in Winnebago County and the accommodations made for disabled individuals there.

    Hopefully at every stage of the process great thought can be given to all the unique services a courthouse provides and to the need for the public to be safe at this important building.

    Hon. Thomas J. Walsh
    Brown County Circuit Court, Green Bay

    We Want to Hear from You! Submit a Letter to the Editor

    Wisconsin Lawyer provides a forum for members to express ideas, concerns, and opinions on law-related subjects. Send comments to org wislawyer wisbar wisbar wislawyer org (include “Letters” in the subject line), or mail to Wisconsin Lawyer “Letters,” P.O. Box 7158, Madison, WI 53707-7158. Limit to 500 words. Writing guidelines available.

    Connect With Us Online. Post comments to articles online, and find us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

    Federal Anti-discrimination Laws Are “Not Workplace Civility Codes”

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    Everyone has a role to play in eliminating sexual harassment from the workplace, and men play an important role as allies in changing the culture, according to panelists at a recent program discussing issues facing women in the legal profession. See#MeToo: Changing the Legal Culture” (InsideTrack, May 1, 2019).

    “I think the role of men on these topics cannot be overstated,” said attorney Nicole Marklein Bacher, a program panelist at the recent Tenth Annual Young Lawyers Conference, hosted by the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Young Lawyers Division.

    The discussion continues at the State Bar of Wisconsin 2019 Annual Meeting & Conference. The Diversity & Inclusion Oversight Committee is sponsoring a program, “Improving Diversity and Inclusion in the #MeToo Era,” Thursday, June 13, at the Hyatt Regency/KI Convention Center, Green Bay.

    A reader posted a comment. What do you think? Email org wislawmag wisbar wisbar wislawmag org.

    Reader: Given the current paradigm, I believe it is time for SCOTUS to reexamine the principle it has pronounced several times in employment discrimination cases, that is, that the federal anti-discrimination laws are “not workplace civility codes.” HR personnel may want to reexamine their approaches and advise the employees of their respective organizations to leave everything but work-related conversation at home.

    While a not insubstantial percentage of complaints of workplace discrimination/harassment tend to die somewhere – either during the company’s investigation, at EEOC, or in litigation – mandating that all workplace conversation and conduct be nothing but work relevant will diminish (but not eliminate entirely) the matters HR will have to address. Conforming to that standard will also provide a safe harbor for the employees.

    However, one matter that has yet to be successfully addressed is the remedy for false allegations. It is becoming too commonplace for employers to simply separate an employee who is the subject of a workplace harassment complaint, irrespective of the truth of the allegation, as there is no penalty for taking that action. Over the decade I have practiced employment law from the plaintiff’s side, I have taken a number of calls in which this is the case.

    Timothy S. Kittle
    Broken Arrow, Okla.

    A Strategy to Break Free From the Office

    In “Happy to Be at Work? What Is Wrong With Me?” (Wisconsin Lawyer, April 2019), Deanne Koll wrote, “When I was out on vacation, I checked my email, and not just once per day. … The weight of knowing the work waiting for me in my office was substantial. As vacation drew to an end, I could feel my anxiety rising, thinking of that to-do list knocking at my door.”

    She asked, why don’t we all pinky-swear to give each other permission to enjoy time away without stressing about the work awaiting our return? Can we right this ship?

    A reader posted a comment. Email your thoughts to org wislawmag wisbar wisbar wislawmag org.

    Reader: I enjoyed Deanne Koll’s lament about never being free from the burden of work/office demands. There is another way: I don’t own a cell phone, and I use my office computer (only to read emails) only when my secretary/boss is at lunch or home for the day.

    My clients all know this, and my home landline number is in the book in case of a real emergency. Otherwise, if a client insists on immediate access, he or she can hire someone else. I have plenty of work, a family and two dogs, and the right to private time.

    Dick Lawson
    Lawson Law Office, Wausau




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