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Lawyer Protests 120-Day Contempt Term for Language Used in Court Filing

Posted Oct 16, 2009 11:49 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Sentenced to a 120-day jail term for harshly criticizing a judge, other court officials and a prosecutor in a legal filing, attorney Carl Smith, 62, is asking the Missouri Supreme Court to overturn the sentence.

Although his lawyer, Bruce Galloway, says Smith's claim in his filing of "personal interest, bias and purported criminal conduct" by Douglas County officials could have been better expressed, lawyer discipline proceedings are the proper forum for addressing such issues, reports the Associated Press.

"The key thing here is what is the appropriate sanction when an attorney overstates or inartfully drafts an argument," attorney Bruce Galloway said. "My position is that the First Amendment right of free speech would prevent the use of a criminal sanction for an attorney who oversteps in his pleadings."

Friend-of-the-court briefs supporting Smith have been filed by the Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys and the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri.

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