Judge Threatens to Strangle Lawyer, Then Tries to Take it Back

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on October 18, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

There's a fair amount of verbal abuse that comes with being a lawyer but you don't expect it to come from a judge. Well, at least not a judge threatening to wring your neck.

Attorney David Barron was certainly surprised by the threat made from the bench by Judge Martin McDonald. Barron apparently called the Judge McDonald on his cell phone without opposing counsel's participation, reports The Courier-Journal.

In addition to the strangling threat, McDonald called the case 'ridiculous', 'disgusting' and 'a huge waste of time.'

Then he tried to take it all back.

McDonald later said his threat was 'facetious' but Barron wasn't about to let it lie there. He filed a motion to disqualify McDonald from hearing the case.

As for the case that McDonald called 'ridiculous?' Barron is an assistant public advocate seeking a new trial for a death row inmate. It's not exactly a frivolous matter.

It also turns out that opposing counsel had already given Barron permission to call McDonald about scheduling matters which was the subject of the cell phone call.

Even if the comment was facetious, experts on legal ethics agree that McDonald's words indicate that he prejudged the case, according to The Courier Journal.

If that's true it probably wouldn't be right for him to continue anyway. What the sarcasm defense really does is insulate him from other charges. The comments are still problematic if he wants to stay on the case.

While it's unusual for judges to be removed against their will, this isn't the first time McDonald has found himself in the hot seat.

Just last month, he was disqualified from a civil case over which he presided after it came to light that he had an undisclosed conflict of interest. Barron's motion to disqualify McDonald in this case is currently before the Kentucky attorney general's office.

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