Rashad James tells the Baltimore Sun that what happened to him March 6 in a Harford County, Md., courthouse was "surreal." But he has now gathered his wits and hired his own legal team, which is calling the incident an example of "lawyering while black." Per NBC News, James, an attorney with Maryland Legal Aid, says he was at a hearing representing an absent client (who has a warrant out for his arrest), and that after that hearing, he was pulled aside by a sheriff's deputy and detained because the deputy thought he was actually the client impersonating an attorney. James pulled out his driver's license to prove who he was, but the deputy didn't think it was legit; James didn't have his bar association ID or business cards on him, though it's not required attorneys carry those, per WBAL.
Per the complaint he has filed with the sheriff's office against the deputy, James says he was let go after about 10 minutes. "I do not know of any colleagues who have had a similar experience," James, who says he was the only black attorney in the courtroom, tells the Sun. "It was ... one of those unexpected things that I just did not anticipate." Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler says his office is looking into James' bias complaint on what James says was a racially motivated incident. James, for his part, wants a full probe and a mark made in the deputy's personnel file. "I am an advocate who speaks up on behalf of my clients," James says, per NBC. "This was an opportunity to speak up for myself." He notes that he now carries business cards with him. (Read more attorney stories.)