Criminal Justice

5th Circuit Rules Lawyer and Client Violated Gag Order; Lawyer Gets $5K Fine, 120-Day Suspension

A federal appeals court ruled (PDF) that a former Dallas mayor pro tem violated a gag order and thus gets another 30 days on top of the 18-year prison sentence he received in 2009 for corruption. And his lawyer, who also spoke out of bounds during the same television interview, must pay the $5,000 fine levied by the trial court as well as a 120-day suspension from getting client appointments in the Northern District of Texas, the National Law Journal reports.

Don Hill, the former Dallas official, is an African-American who was accused (and later convicted) of shaking down white developers who wanted to build affordable housing in the city. Shortly before his trial in 2009, Hill had been ordered not to talk to the news media about anything that was not already in the public record. Instead, Hill said in a television interview that evidence indicated that the Bush administration had targeted him because he is a Democrat.

The trial court and the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Court of Appeals found that statement made it difficult to find an impartial jury, and thus he was in criminal contempt of court.

His lawyer, Ray Jackson, told the court that he feared Hill was violating his order as he watched the interview unfold. But then Jackson spoke for the news segment, saying “There are several people who have made the claim, and there’s been several people who have shown that during the Bush administration that Democrats were targeted.”

That made Jackson himself a bull’s eye for the gag order, and he was found in criminal contempt.

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