f/k/a . . . the archives

October 6, 2003

And Throw Away the Key?

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 1:00 am

My cyber colleague Carolyn Elefant over at MyShingle reported Sunday morning about a Louisiana judge who issued a bench warrant for an attorney who failed to appear at a hearing.  The lawyer spent an hour in lockup and had to post a $20,000 bond.   The story is described in the Lafeyette Daily Advertiser (Oct. 4, 2003).

 

Said attorney — surprise!! — blames it on miscommunication and scheduling confusion.   Carolyn wonders if the judge was just having a bad day or “is there more to this story that would justify what appears to be an overly harsh response to a missed court appearance?”

 

I’m gonna give the attorney the benefit of the doubt (knowing neither the facts nor the reputation of the characters involved).  However, there better be, and almost always is, “more to the story” when a judge dishes out this kind of treatment to a distinguished member of the bar. 

 

One does not have to spend much time around criminal or family courts to know there are a number of attorneys in every community who chronically fail to appear at court due to “scheduling difficulties”, “communication breakdowns”, and unreliable underlings.  These attorneys cause great disruption and added expense for the courts, the litigants, and opposing counsel.  If more judges would motivate more attorneys to get their acts together, everyone would be much obliged.  The real question is why there aren’t a lot more attorneys enjoying the accommodations at the county jail.

4 Comments

  1. For what it’s worth, the judge I worked for put a local attorney in jail for a half a day. I was clerking for him when it happened, and it is a matter of great lore in New Orleans. Basically, the attorney tried to blame his secretary for not putting the hearing date on his calender, which was the straw that broke the camel’s back. But leading up to the event were some things that made it hard for the judge to resist the inclination to put him in jail. First, the attorney failed to show up for a status conference. At that point he received a pro forma “rule to show cause why sanctions should not be imposed.” He wrote the judge a letter saying he would be at the show cause hearing unless he heard that it had been cancelled. It was not cancelled, and he didn’t show up. Turns out he was at home luxuriating when the U.S. Marshalls picked him up. I think if he had accepted responsibility for the situation he wouldn’t have been sent to jail. But blaming his secretary was more than Judge Duplantier could handle.

    Comment by Ernie — October 6, 2003 @ 10:27 pm

  2. For what it’s worth, the judge I worked for put a local attorney in jail for a half a day. I was clerking for him when it happened, and it is a matter of great lore in New Orleans. Basically, the attorney tried to blame his secretary for not putting the hearing date on his calender, which was the straw that broke the camel’s back. But leading up to the event were some things that made it hard for the judge to resist the inclination to put him in jail. First, the attorney failed to show up for a status conference. At that point he received a pro forma “rule to show cause why sanctions should not be imposed.” He wrote the judge a letter saying he would be at the show cause hearing unless he heard that it had been cancelled. It was not cancelled, and he didn’t show up. Turns out he was at home luxuriating when the U.S. Marshalls picked him up. I think if he had accepted responsibility for the situation he wouldn’t have been sent to jail. But blaming his secretary was more than Judge Duplantier could handle.

    Comment by Ernie — October 6, 2003 @ 10:27 pm

  3. The case Ernie describes above is pretty egregious and possibly worth jail. That’s what I meant by whether there were some missing links in the article that I posted – because in the case I described, the attorney was in trial in another court when he failed to show.
    My other question, of course, is what’s the penalty when judges come late? In all the cases I’ve handled, I’ve only experience the opposing attorney late on one or two occasions. But with judges, there are many times that I’ve waited an hour at a case call before they even took the bench. My clients were not too happy about that situation.

    Comment by Carolyn Elefant — October 7, 2003 @ 1:22 am

  4. The case Ernie describes above is pretty egregious and possibly worth jail. That’s what I meant by whether there were some missing links in the article that I posted – because in the case I described, the attorney was in trial in another court when he failed to show.
    My other question, of course, is what’s the penalty when judges come late? In all the cases I’ve handled, I’ve only experience the opposing attorney late on one or two occasions. But with judges, there are many times that I’ve waited an hour at a case call before they even took the bench. My clients were not too happy about that situation.

    Comment by Carolyn Elefant — October 7, 2003 @ 1:22 am

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