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Legal Ethics

Lawyer Faces Criminal Contempt Charge over Explanation for Missed Trial Date

Posted Jan 6, 2012 8:07 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A Minneapolis lawyer has been charged with criminal contempt after a judge didn’t believe her explanation for missing a trial date and other court appearances.

Lawyer M. Tayari Garrett says she was hospitalized on the May 2 trial date and the charges against her are "preposterous and vindictive," the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. Judge William Howard of Hennepin County referred the case for possible criminal prosecution after she missed three court appearances, didn’t appear at a show cause hearing, and didn’t show up for another court date, according to the charge against her.

An investigation showed Garrett had purchased an airplane ticket to Paris about a month before trial and left two days after the scheduled trial date. "Whether or not I traveled the weekend following my hospital stay is not relevant to whether I willfully failed to appear for trial on May 2," Garrett told the newspaper. She says she told the judge that her health prevented her from appearing and told court officials to contact the hospital to verify her story. Another lawyer was ready to appear for her, she adds.

Garrett had sought a continuance before the trial for a wedding in Europe. She had also lost several pretrial motions before Howard and sought to oust him from the case, claiming racial bias and judicial misconduct, according to a prior story by the Star Tribune. She has been an adjunct professor at the University of St. Thomas and William Mitchell law schools, and works in both Minneapolis and Texas.

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