Trials & Litigation

Lawyer jailed for 5 days over comment made at restaurant lunch wins appeal of contempt case

A Michigan lawyer who served five days in jail for comments he made during lunch at a Flint diner has won an appeal of his contempt conviction.

A judge’s law clerk contended that longtime attorney F. Anthony Lubkin directed a comment including the word “guilty” at a jury in a Genesee County murder case eating lunch in the same restaurant on April 12, 2012. However, Lubkin and a lunch companion said he had simply been discussing a legal issue that had nothing to do with the murder case, reports.

Nonetheless, Lubkin was held in contempt by the presiding judge in the murder case, who called him a “smart aleck” and sentenced him to 30 days for “willfully and deliberately” making a statement in front of the jury that could interfere with court functioning. Lubkin was released after serving five days, when he was released on bond as his appeal of the contempt case was pending.

The Michigan Court of Appeals vacated the contempt order in an unpublished opinion (PDF) last week, holding that the judge abused his discretion because there was no evidence showing that Lubkin had willfully directed a comment at the impaneled jury and no reason to think that he would want to do so, since he had no connection to the murder case.

“None of what happened in this unusual case would ever have occurred if this law clerk had done his job of minding the jury with proper care, away from the hustle and bustle of a busy downtown diner,” Lubkin said in a written statement.

Meanwhile, the defendant in the criminal case at issue, Thomas L. Jones, was convicted of first-degree murder in the 2010 slaying of a young woman, Amanda Lamson, and sentenced to life without parole, the article reports. Jones appealed his conviction, arguing that he should have been granted a mistrial based on the claimed jury interference by Lubkin, but the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction last week.

An earlier article provides additional details about the contempt case.

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