Atticus Finch called our court system “the great leveler” where everyone is treated equally.

But anyone who has waited in line outside Sonoma County’s Hall of Justice knows that isn’t true.

According to a sign outside the south entrance to the building, there are two distinct classes of visitors — and they each have their own line.

The first is the public. Most mornings, they wait in a line often stretching around the building to pass through a metal detector and have their bags searched before being allowed upstairs to the courtrooms.

The second line is for lawyers, cops and court employees who flash their ID cards and are allowed to step in front of everyone else. Officials said they must go first so court can begin on time.

The problem is, court almost never begins on time. It can’t start without defendants, victims and witnesses, who are stuck downstairs in the other line.  Often, they arrive in court, breathless, only to find a judge has issued a warrant for their arrest or their lawyer is late.

Why should people be penalized for using a public facility?

It’s high time the court eliminate the two-tiered entrance policy. Any benefit is negated by a perception of privilege and inequality. Make everyone wait in the same line and it will no doubt move quicker.

It’s not a private club, after all.

Atticus Finch, a model of integrity for a generation of lawyers in the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird,  said it best:

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb in his skin and walk around in it.”

Court officials need to get walking. And waiting.

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