courtroom

A Conway attorney has filed suit against Pulaski County officials and is asking for clarification on whether lawyers are considered officers of the court after he was barred from a court facility while carrying a handgun earlier this month.

In a complaint filed Thursday in Pulaski County Circuit Court, patent attorney Chris P. Corbitt, with the support of attorney Robert Steinbuch, requested a circuit judge to issue a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief following a Jan. 3 incident where he was not allowed to enter the Pulaski County District Courthouse.

The suit raises to question whether attorneys are considered “officers of the court.”

“This case involves the right of attorneys to carry firearms in a courtroom of any court or a courthouse of this state,” the complaint reads in part.

Corbitt filed suit after being denied access to the Pulaski County District Courthouse on Jan. 3 because he had a handgun with him.

As he walked into the courthouse on the day in question, Corbitt said he let the security guard know he had a concealed-carry license and asked if it was OK if he had a firearm with him.

According to the complaint, the security guard “denied the attorney entry, stating that lawyers are not authorized to possess handguns in the courtroom of any court or courthouse of this state.”

Before he left the building to put his gun back in his vehicle, Corbitt said the security guard called a Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office detective to the courthouse regarding the matter.

At this point, Corbitt showed the security guard Arkansas Code §5-73-122, which states “an officer of the court” is permitted to bring firearms into the courthouse.

The security guard and PCSO detective maintained that an attorney was not considered an “officer of the court” and did not allow Corbitt to bring his firearm in the building, the complaint states.

The attorney is asking Circuit Judge Chris Piazza declare lawyers be considered officers of the court following the incident.

The suit seeks action against the Pulaski County Jail, Pulaski County Sheriff Eric Higgins and Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde. The security guard and detective involved in the incident are not included in the suit. According to the complaint, the two “were respectful and professional, and this complaint in no way is designed to impugn their individual efforts.”

The suit claims the plaintiff’s Constitutional rights were violated and that he “is entitled to relief.”

Corbitt is not the first lawyer to have his rights violated, according to the complaint, which points to a 2017 incident involving Fort Smith lawyer W. Whitfield Hyman.

As of press time, Sheriff Higgins and Judge Hyde had not responded to the complaint.

Staff writer Marisa Hicks can be reached at mhicks@thecabin.net.

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