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Legal Ethics

Contempt Conviction Upheld for Tenn. Lawyer Who Gave Judge the Finger

Posted Oct 2, 2008 8:44 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A Tennessee appeals court has upheld the contempt conviction of a Tennessee lawyer who made an obscene gesture as a judge was leaving the courtroom.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reported on the July 23 opinion upholding a contempt conviction for lawyer Randy George Rogers in a story published yesterday. Rogers was sentenced to a suspended 10-day jail sentence for his behavior.

The court’s opinion (PDF) says Rogers made the offending gesture after the judge had turned his back. Rogers acted when the judge called a recess rather than hearing his motion. When the judge turned to leave the courtroom, Rogers threw a file, flipped the bird, and muttered the F-word to himself. Rogers testified the exact words he used were, “What a f------ a------,” the court wrote.

Rogers testified he wanted an immediate hearing because he suffers from an illness and feared he would “crash” before it could be heard. The illness was not identified in the opinion.

The Knoxville News Sentinel identified the judge as John Hagler, who resigned from the bench after an audiotape surfaced that contained his sex fantasies. A fired secretary had turned the tape over to police. She said it also included dictation.

Rogers is representing a Tennessee man accused of murder in the shooting deaths of a sheriff’s deputy and a friend riding with him. The defendant, Rocky Houston, tried to fire Rogers, his appointed lawyer, on several occasions. At one point Houston complained that Rogers had his eyes closed during a hearing. Rogers responded that he had a headache and could hear the testimony.

The newspaper says the lawyer’s health woes could be an issue if Houston is convicted and ends up challenging Rogers’ competency.

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