Lawyer Gets Reversal of Contempt Finding for ‘Sarcastic, Unprofessional Looks’
Posted Jul 20, 2009 10:36 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
A Georgia appeals court has reversed a judge’s contempt order that sent a lawyer to jail—albeit for just a few minutes—for making a sarcastic face.
The Georgia Court of Appeals said the judge didn’t give the lawyer a chance to fight the contempt finding, according to the Fulton County Daily Report.
Chief Judge A.J. "Buddy" Welch Jr. of Henry County Juvenile Court had found lawyer Ella A. S. Hughes in contempt because he disapproved of the facial expressions she made. Hughes was reacting to Welch's order requiring her client’s children be taken into custody by child welfare authorities, according to the story.
After just a few minutes in jail, Hughes was released to handle another case. She paid a $1,000 fine and did not have to go back to jail, the story says.
The story reported this back-and-forth between Hughes and Welch:
Judge Welch (to Hughes): “That expression, ma'am, just cost you $100. You are removed from the court approved list."
Hughes tries to speak up, but Welch tells her to stop.
Judge Welch: “Your sarcastic looks and your sarcastic attitude is unacceptable to this court. You are removed from the appointed list. You can reapply at some other time. You can stay on the cases that you presently have but if I ever see that action from you again I can assure you that appropriate actions will be taken. Do you understand that, ma'am?"
Hughes: "Yes, sir.”
Judge Welch: "You may not like my rulings but you can surely appeal them.”
Hughes: “If I may, Your Honor, the only thing I did was bow my head to write down what you were saying."
Welch: "No, ma'am. You did not. Now you have tested the court's patience. I find you in willful contempt of this court. You are fined $1,000 and you are given 10 days in jail. Take her into custody. I want the record to reflect that the attorney I just had to hold in contempt was not just bowing her head but she was giving sarcastic, unprofessional looks, body action that showed her disgust for the court's ruling and disrespect for the court in its entirety."