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Out-of-County Lawyer's Lawsuit Claims Long Waits Unconstitutional

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on December 28, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

An Illinois lawyer is pursuing an interesting strategy to cut down on the time he spends waiting for court. He's filed a federal lawsuit claiming unconstitutional discrimination against out-of-county lawyers.

Attorney Gary Peterlin of LaSalle County, Ill., claims courthouse procedures in Will County -- about 50 miles east -- violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, Courthouse News Service reports.

Peterlin alleges that attorneys who are not members of the Will County Bar Association are forced to wait in long security lines and subjected to search just like members of the public.

Members of the Will County bar, however, are treated differently -- allowed to skip security screenings and enter the courthouse through a separate entrance, Peterlin's out-of-county lawyer lawsuit claims.

Will County bar members are also allowed to bring recording devices and cell phones into the courthouse, while out-of-county lawyers cannot, Peterlin's suit alleges. Peterlin says sheriff's deputies once barred from entering the courthouse because his cell phone had a built-in camera.

For Peterlin to succeed on his equal protection claim, he must prove that the government has no reason to treat one group differently than another group in similar circumstances.

To that end, Peterlin asserts in his out-of-county lawyer lawsuit:

"[T]he distinctions between the two groups of lawyers bear no rational relationship to promoting and securing courthouse safety or any other legitimate governmental purpose."

Peterlin also complains that he and other out-of-county lawyers felt forced to pay $195 each to join the Will County Bar Association -- "an organization they would not otherwise join, ... just for the privilege of bypassing the security procedures of the Will County Courthouse."

Peterlin is seeking an injunction to stop the allegedly discriminatory policy, along with a refund of his Will County bar dues. He's also seeking class action status for his out-of-county lawyer lawsuit.

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