Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Think Before You Drop The Next F-Bomb (or How to Get The Judge to Overreact)

Overreaction? You decide.

Here is the situation, two lawyers finished up their argument and started to walk away. One lawyer says to the other, commenting on the evidence of a witness, "He's a f--king liar." The judge, hearing this, asks the lawyer to confirm what the lawyer said. The lawyer answers the judge that, yes, he did in fact use the word in a statement to opposing counsel.

The judge finds the lawyer in contempt. He sentences him to 6 months in jail.

And no, this is not a hypothetical. It happened a few days ago in a Cincinnati courtroom. Apparently Michael Brautigam said the words and said them within the hearing of the wrong judge. Judge Robert Ruehlman has a history of being hard on profanity in his courtroom.

Now, I can understand finding a lawyer in contempt for using profanity in the courtroom. I can even understand levying a fine or something. But six months? When word wasn't used to the court but in a conversation to another lawyer on the way out?

As a rule you should never use profanity in court. However, in this case, six months seems a wee bit on the excessive side.

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