The Southern District of Iowa Cone of Silence

May 23rd, 2011 by Joe Kristan

The Tax Court is in town. It’s a nice day, so I thought I’d walk over to the Federal Courthouse – about 8 blocks away – to see what a Tax Court session looks like. I find out that it was going to be in Judge Pratt’s courtroom. I see a note on the local Federal Courthouse web page “Wifi Available Here,” so I grab my Ipad, along with my wallet, my cell phone, and the little pocket camera I carry — thereby dooming my mission three ways before I leave my office.
On my way over I bump into a client who happens to be a lawyer, who by chance was walking to our office to pick up an extended return. He seems amused by my mission, and he directs me to where to go in — helpful, as I hadn’t been in the building for many years.
I walk in the front door into the dismal little security foyer, where the Security Old Guy slides the trinket tray under the glass. Based on my training as an air suspect passenger, I undress place my Ipad, phone and camera in the tray. They ask for my ID, so I show them my license.
The Security Old Guy looks in the tray, points to the camera:
“What’s that?”
Um, a camera.
“What for?”
Uh, I like to carry one.
“No cameras in the courthouse. Are you a lawyer?”
No.
“No phones in the building. You’ll have to leave them in your vehicle.”
I walked. Can I leave them with you?
“No.”
Thanks a bunch. I’ll have to remember to add a tip to my extended tax return for the great service.
On my way out, I see a sign: “No phones. No cameras. No computers.” Heaven help me if they had figured out the Ipad was a computer. It makes me curious what exactly the Wifi is for.
Walking back, I run into my lawyer friend again and tell him my adventure. He shakes his head and wonders out loud why the very place where your constitutional rights are supposed to be protected is the one place you can’t have a camera.
Why do I carry a camera? In case I see something cool to take a picture of, like this beautiful old Corvair I passed on the way back from the Federal Courthouse:
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So the trip wasn’t a complete failure, anyway. And I will sleep well knowing that the judicial process was protected from a rogue CPA with multiple dangerous or deadly electronic devices. I’m probably lucky that I wasn’t detained and sent to Guantanamo or something.

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