Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss the recent contempt order by an Ohio judge for a lawyer’s disruptive conduct which fined the lawyer $500.00 and required him to promise 25 times in “legible” handwriting not to engage in conduct “that is prejudicial to the administration of justice” or conduct “intended to disrupt a tribunal or engage in undignified or discourteous conduct that is degrading to a tribunal.”
According to media reports, the lawyer was held in contempt by the Ohio judge for leaving the defense table in a criminal case during jury instructions because he objected to the judge’s refusal to instruct jurors on Ohio’s self-defense laws and also for acting unprofessionally several times during the trial.
The contempt order required the lawyer to write in legible handwriting: “I will not engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice or in any other conduct that adversely reflects on my fitness to practice law” and “I shall not engage in conduct intended to disrupt a tribunal or engage in undignified or discourteous conduct that is degrading to a tribunal.
The lawyer was held in contempt on the last day of a criminal trial in which his client, a former police officer, was accused of attacking his wife. The lawyer argued that the client had acted in self-defense and left the defense table during jury instructions because he objected to the judge’s refusal to instruct jurors on Ohio’s self-defense laws.
According to the reports, the judge stated that the lawyer had “thrown a tantrum” and acted unprofessionally several times during the trial. The lawyer is quoted as stating: “I was totally wrong in how I protested. I don’t think I was wrong in what I was fighting for.” He also said that he had expected a jail sentence.
Bottom line: This lawyer drew significant media attention for his disruptive conduct and for the judge’s unusual sanction. Trial lawyers must always be aware that a lawyer is prohibited from engaging in disruptive conduct in court, even if the lawyer believes that the judge is wrong and the lawyer’s cause is right.
Be careful out there.
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Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire
Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.
2999 Alt. 19, Suite A
Palm Harbor, Florida 34683
Office (727) 799-1688
Fax (727) 799-1670