Could You Be in Contempt of Court for Being Popular?
Lawyers are good with words, so it's easy for us to find ways of blaming other people for our mistakes. A lawyer, for example, never "drinks too much," he is merely "over-served."
Northern California attorney Tim Pori, however, was not as successful with blame-shifting in front of Superior Court Judge Carrie Panetta during a recent court appearance. (For what it's worth, he actually accepted responsibility.) Judge Panetta, clearly irked that Pori could not begin a murder trial last week due to a scheduling overlap, found Pori in contempt of court, sentenced him to five days in jail, and ordered him to pay a $2,500 fine.
This is probably where the blame-shifting should have started. After all, is it Pori's fault that he's in high demand? That people accused of murder keep asking for his help?
Is being popular a crime?
Last week, Pori was supposed to be ready to start a trial for his client Andrew Toon Wong, a former assistant night manager of an Alameda Safeway store charged with multiple counts of murder, reports KTVU. Pori, however, told the court he had a scheduling conflict because another client accused of murder had recently refused to waive his right to a speedy trial, which meant that the other client's April 30 trial date couldn't be changed.
Pori's attorney, Daniel Russo, told Judge Panetta last Thursday that Pori's request to delay Wong's trial shouldn't be a problem because Wong was willing to waive his right to a speedy trial.
Judge Panetta compromised: She moved Wong's trial date to June, and stayed Pori's five-day sentence, but still found Pori in contempt of court. (If it's any consolation, Tim Pori's website now includes the outstanding motto, "I Rather [sic] Go to Jail than Prevent You from Getting a Fair Trial.")
Trial attorneys, you've been warned: You can be penalized for being too popular if you can't represent your clients on their assigned trial dates.
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- Copying Boilerplate Language Leads to Attorney Sanctions (FindLaw's California Case Law Blog)
- Right to a Speedy Trial (FindLaw)