The First District Court of Appeal recently overturned a conviction for criminal contempt originating out of a trial court last year. The court’s opinion had advice for how trial judges should handle matters dealing with alcohol, attorneys, and in-court activities.
This case reached the court of appeals after an attorney took a breathalyzer test, the results of which a judge thought were too high. The attorney in question thought her work was done for the day, and so at lunch she had a few drinks. After lunch she learned that one of her clients had a plea hearing that she need to be present for.
Upon the attorney’s return to the courtroom, a court employees told the judge he smelled alcohol on her breath. During the hearing the judge asked the attorneys to approach the bench, where he asked the attorney to take a breathalyzer test. She complied and the results came back at .087, .076, and .082. After this the judge refused to let the attorney represent the defendant and the court charged her with direct criminal contempt.
Attorney Suffers Contempt Conviction
At the criminal contempt hearing the court found the attorney guilty. To be convicted of direct criminal contempt a person must commit an intentional act in front of the judge in court. And in this case the attorney had drinks while at lunch, then came to the court with an elevated blood alcohol level. The judge was not sympathetic to the attorney’s arguments and convicted her anyway.
The attorney appealed her conviction, and the court of appeals agreed that the judge acted wrongly. In their opinion, the First District Court of Appeals gave some words of counsel to judges who deal with similar situations in the future. When a judge in open court throws an attorney out of a courtroom and convicts him or her of criminal contempt, it would be difficult for the attorney to either maintain his or her current job or get a new one in the future. The court recommended that judges instead have an attorney ask for a continuance and counsel the attorney in chambers instead of killing a career.
Important Role of Attorneys
This case illustrates the important role that attorneys play in our system of justice. Clients put a great deal of trust and faith in an attorney’s abilities to professionally represent their interests. It is difficult, if not impossible, for the average layperson to file a lawsuit and adequately understand the law in a way that gives them a fair chance to do well in court. That is why we have attorneys, to counsel, represent, and advocate on behalf of those who are unable to do so themselves.
These important responsibilities are as important in the area of personal injury, and maybe more so. When a person is a victim of someone else’s negligence, he or she comes to an attorney with the hope that the attorney will everything possible to make him or her financially whole again. Often people are not in a position to pay large legal fees, so they depend on the attorney’s ability to get a recovery on a contingency basis. This requires a relstionahisp of trust and professionalism. That is what you will find at The Pittman Firm. If you have been injured in an accident or other incident, contact us and let us put our experience to work for you.