Judge handcuffs public defender for speaking out in court

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This is exactly the kind of act by a magistrate that would have had sober, responsible New England colonists throwing bricks through the courthouse windows.


What legal recourse would one have if a judge falsely detains or imprisons you in violation of the law? What recourse do we have if our right to counsel is denied us while in court?


I think the appeals process is your only option.


Well that might get a conviction reversed but is there no recompense for the illegal detainment or the violation of basic rights?
If a judge commits a crime in court, what can be done?


Judges have absolute immunity from civil and criminal complaints when acting as judges. This is why you should make sure to vote in your elections for judges and prosecutors. Every single time. I’ve said it on the BBS a million and a half times: It’s really important.


IANAL, my opinion is not well informed, but I’m not sure the judge did anything illegal here, since the attorney was in contempt, and a judge is allowed to make an immediate order to deal with contempt (maybe a bailiff cuffing a lawyer isn’t legal, not sure). They were certainly a power-tripping creep, regardless of the rest. The client might be able to fight the decision since they didn’t have representation, but since it was during sentencing that might not matter.


It’s hard not to be in contempt of court when courts go out of their way to inspire contempt.


From how I’m reading it, the defender kept interrupting the judge, and so he had her cuffed so that he could finish speaking.

You know what? Fair enough. The judge is in charge of the courtroom, and should certainly not be interrupted when speaking.

However, when he’s finished speaking, he needs to let her get up and continue with her job of defending her client. The “handcuffs public defender for speaking out in court” bit I don’t have so much of a problem with. It’s the “client was unrepresented while the judge finished hearing the case at hand” that’s despicable.


Yes, that’s what I have a problem with as well. [quote=“angusm, post:8, topic:78563, full:true”]
It’s hard not to be in contempt of court when courts go out of their way to inspire contempt.

Contempt is a holdover from English common law where the authority to judge was granted by the crown who in turn was given authority over man by God. Thus contempt of the court was contempt of the crown and contempt of god. Since we were a nation founded on the principle that authority derives from the people and not a magic sky man or a person with a silly hat, I simply do not understand how contempt of court is even allowed in this country. Why, in a nation that holds free speech as a primary principle right do we charge people for speaking when in court? By what right do these contempt laws exist?

So there are two sets of laws then? One for us and one for judges? How is that acceptable?

edit to add some context
Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black wrote in a dissent, “It is high time, in my judgment, to wipe out root and branch the judge-invented and judge-maintained notion that judges can try criminal contempt cases without a jury.”


So that cases can be dealt with in an orderly, efficient manner, and so that - in extreme cases - the courtroom doesn’t end up looking like the set of the Jerry Springer Show.

It sounds like the judge was fairly patient, actually, and gave the defender several warnings. Any given judge may be the nicest person in the world, when out in the world, but a certain protocol must be followed in the courtroom, and the judge is the boss. Period. If he is wrong, or you think he is being unfair, take it up with someone else, later.


A judge’s authority in the US doesn’t come from God or a king, but from the office they hold. Their job is still to judge and preside over a courtroom, and they do need order in the court to do their job, which requires people speaking when it’s their time to speak and not when it isn’t - Free Speech isn’t license to subvert the courts and legal system. Given the system we have I don’t see a great alternative.


If the judge is going to handcuff the public defender he’d better be prepared to bring in another one IMMEDIATELY to represent her client, who still has the right to representation.


… and if you can’t see how “this person is the absolute authority in this situation, period” can lead to serious abuse of power…

I think I’ll go with the Hugo Black quote posted above by anotherone.

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I’m not sure anyone needs to warn a defender about passionately defending a client. In fact, I think that’s what they are supposed to do. My reading is that this judge simply didn’t think he needed input from the defense in order to pass sentence as evidenced by his actions.

Was the court room out of order? I see no evidence of that. But speaking to the larger question of maintaining some notion of decorum and order in the court, ask yourself why the judge didn’t charge her with impeding an officer of the court and then allow her to finish the case? He then could have set a date for trial on that charge but instead decided he didn’t need to follow our laws. Why was he able to pass sentence without a trial or jury? Charge them for disruption or some other offense and let them have their day in court like everyone else. The contempt charge is archaic.

Why not? Subversion of legal systems is just what this country is about. We didn’t like English law so we made our own country. But really I’m not asking for the ability to run rampant around a court room. Only that judges follow the same laws and procedures the rest of us are subject to. If someone is disturbing the court, charge them, set a court date, and give them a trial.

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I’d say the country was about putting rule of law above the rule of kings, so eroding the rule of law would be exactly the wrong direction.

And if they continue disturbing the court after the charges? Wouldn’t we need someone in the executive branch in the court to file the charges so a judge could hear them? Wouldn’t they be able to arrest and jail the charged until the trial unless they post bail? I don’t see this as an improvement.

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Or just adjourn. It’s not the end of the world. There’s a perfectly acceptable and routine method to deal with disruptions that make proceeding at that very instant, untenable.

By proceeding without, they could easily argue that the state compromised their right to representation, and thus their right to a fair trial. (of course, this is just with what I have before me, not a lawyer, etc etc)


So, you are arguing that it’s OK for a judge to ignore our laws and pass sentence on the accused without trial or jury in order to uphold the rule of law? How does that work?

Off the top of my head, I’d say removing them from the room is a good alternative to handcuffs and detainment. No need to chain someone up at all.

Why? A judge is an officer of the court. I’m fairly sure they can press charges. You know, like contempt.

Arrests are done in relation to investigations or the prevention of a crime. They are not to be used as punishment. Just like how if you are speeding they don’t arrest you because there is no need.

I’d already mentioned my concern with this, and hadn’t said it was OK. Anyway, feel free to work your way up to being a prominent jurist/legislator to reform the judiciary, as a non-lawyer I haven’t got very informed opinions and would prefer to spend a few years brushing up before making any sweeping reform policy recommendations or debates.

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Right, best just to leave governance of our nation to lawyers and judges. What do us plebeians know about justice, right, and wrong anyway?