Fun with Fairfax County … NOT

Dummy here let a Concealed Handgun License expire.  My fault, and I have no excuse, so some of this I brought on myself.  Had I mailed the renewal, I could have avoided some of this frustration.  Still, I have to wonder who thinks this stuff up.

According to Virginia law, I carried my firearm openly to the courthouse, and safely secured it in my vehicle prior to entering the courthouse.   FAIL #1.  At the entrance to the courthouse proper, though (NOT in the parking garage, where one could be proactive) is a sign that prohibits all kinds of things bureaucrats are afraid of — knives (no matter the blade length), firearms, cameras, voice recorders, etc.  You know, the stuff that might show what they do, or do not do, as the case may be.

Daughter had her camera in her purse, so she returned it to the car.  She was going to take our phones, which have cameras, but we discussed and decided they wouldn’t take our phones.  WRONG.  They don’t care that people might need to get in touch with one another from inside the courthouse.

So at the door, when the guard wants to take my phone, I told him I had to wait until my daughter returned, as she’d never find me inside.  FAIL #2. He informed me I couldn’t wait for her inside the doorway.  Not “please step outside so others can come through this narrow walkway” but “you have to go outside to wait.”  I told him of course I would, but I resented being ejected from my courthouse.  That was where he told me it was his because he worked there.

Daughter returns from the car; we’re going to give up our phones.  FAIL #3. Guard tells me I have to give up my holster too.  Never mind that it’s empty.  He tells me gun paraphernalia is not permitted in the courthouse.  I ask for a citation, since the law says firearms are not permitted, and he tells me not to quote the law to him; he knows what he’s been told. (BTW, this is not the first time an official in Virginia has used that line — “don’t quote the law to me”; I know it’s been used in Prince William County and have now heard it myself in Richmond and Fairfax.)  After I asked for a citation, he called a deputy.  When she arrived, I asked her the rationale for having to give up my holster, and she informed me, and the guard, I needn’t.  Of course, I did have to remove my belt and holster to go through the metal detector; I’m surprised they didn’t ask me to remove my shoes and underwear as well.

FAIL #4.  NO SIGNAGE. I knew I needed to submit the application to the clerk of the court.  On the first floor, that office is listed as room 304 — which we never found.  Eventually we found a sign that said for information go to 301, which we did find, and that person told us to go to 319 — which is in no way marked for clerk of the court; it says Civil Intake.

KUDO. Debby.  I didn’t bring extra copies, or a self-addressed, stamped envelope.   Nothing on the state police web site or the application says these are required.  Nice lady at the window tells me the state police website says these are jurisdictional (which means exactly what to me?) and I need to go to the Fairfax County website to see this information.   When I said “Oh, yes, the extra-legal requirements” she immediately made copies for me and handed me an envelope to address.  Perhaps they’ve heard that before.

Back to the front door, gather up confiscated phone.  Outside, I took a photo of the sign prohibiting recording devices (photo).  At this point, I truly expected to be stopped from doing so.  When I got home, I uploaded this photo, and looked up the authorizing sections of the code (cited below).  I sure don’t see authority for him to prohibit recording.  I suspect there are two factors at work — protecting the unions that the transcriptionists belong to, and protecting court employees who do stupid things.  I come from that old school, apparently, that believes court transactions are supposed to be open, protecting ONLY the identities of the innocent.  Where I’d draw the line is:  Proceedings = public; Records = private by default, with discovery being the point where a release/no-release determination is made.

The security at the courthouse might make some feel safe, but could likely easily have been circumvented (she posits, given the way in which they dealt with my mentally retarded son, who wasn’t in any mood to empty his pockets or give up his belt or radio, despite my best efforts to get him to comply).  The efficiency with which business could be transacted could be improved hundredsfold with some appropriate signage.  I’d bet a month’s pay that the number of people needed to run the courthouse could be significantly cut with some appropriate policies put in place (or a bunch of policies rescinded), some decent signage, and a culture that believes MOST people are there to take care of business quickly and professionally, not to thwart the bureaucrats.

——————————————-

Code sections referenced by the sign:

8.01-4. District courts and circuit courts may prescribe certain rules.

The district courts and circuit courts may, from time to time, prescribe rules for their respective districts and circuits. Such rules shall be limited to those rules necessary to promote proper order and decorum and the efficient and safe use of courthouse facilities and clerks’ offices. No rule of any such court shall be prescribed or enforced which is inconsistent with this statute or any other statutory provision, or the Rules of Supreme Court or contrary to the decided cases, or which has the effect of abridging substantive rights of persons before such court. Any rule of court which violates the provisions of this section shall be invalid.

The courts may prescribe certain docket control procedures which shall not abridge the substantive rights of the parties nor deprive any party the opportunity to present its position as to the merits of a case solely due to the unfamiliarity of counsel of record with any such docket control procedures.

17-116.2(B) The chief judge of the circuit shall ensure that the system of justice in his circuit operates smoothly and efficiently. He shall have authority to assign the work of the circuit as between judges, and in doing so he may consider the nature and categories of the cases to be assigned.

Advertisements

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://amcit.wordpress.com/2010/01/26/fun-with-fairfax-county-not/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

One CommentLeave a comment

  1. “Don’t quote the law to me”, what an arrogant ass. Glad you set him straight. I had to go through this back on October when I let my permit expire.

    Your comment about this security theatre makes some people feel safer is worth a word; that sort of stuff always makes me feel less safe. The idiots who run these security operations, be they TSA bufoon or Wackenhut or Pinkerton private bufoons tend to feel more threatening to me than any actual criminals, since there is no way to avoid them.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: