Criminal Law

2 Texas Lawyers Guilty of Contempt re Winning Defense of Client Judge, But Get No Fines or Jail Time


Two Texas lawyers are proclaiming victory, despite being found guilty of criminal contempt, because they were neither jailed nor fined.

Following a six-day trial that ended Saturday, visiting Judge Juanita Vasquez-Gardner found Theresa Caballero guilty of at least 9 of 11 counts and Stuart Leeds guilty of 5 out of 6 counts of criminal contempt concerning their successful defense of a criminal bribery case last year against a client El Paso municipal judge. However, Vasquez-Gardner declined to jail the two attorneys. And, after substantially reducing the $5,000 and $2,700 fines assessed against them, respectively, by visiting Judge Steve Smith immediately after the client judge’s trial, Vasquez-Gardner probated the fines, so the lawyers won’t have to pay anything, according to the El Paso Times and KFOX.

“To me it’s a badge of honor to be found in contempt by somebody like Judge Smith who is so abusive and to be able to say I threw myself under the [bus] instead of throwing my client under the bus,” said Leeds.

Caballero pointed to a comment by Vasquez-Gardner in calling the case a win for herself and Leeds: “[S]he used the words, it would be a ‘travesty’ for us as lawyers to lose our licenses,” the lawyer said, referring to upcoming State Bar of Texas disciplinary trials the two also face later this year concerning their conduct at the bribery trial.

The exact comment by Vasquez-Gardner, according to the El Paso Times, was that “It would be a travesty if the citizens of this county were to be deprived of your services,” referring to testimony by dozens of witnesses praising the work done by the two laywers.

They were accused of personally criticizing Smith and questioning his motives and continuing to argue their position after he had already ruled on objections, among other claimed misconduct during the client judge’s trial.

The articles don’t include any comment from Smith after the verdict.

Additional coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Contempt Trial for 2 Texas Lawyers Follows Their Winning Defense of Municipal Judge’s Criminal Case”

KVIA: “Closing arguments begin on day six of Caballero, Leeds trial”

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