70-Year-Old Lawyer Hits One-Year Mark in Jail in Contempt Case

  • Print

A year ago, a Los Angeles County superior court judge sentenced lawyer Richard Fine to jail indefinitely after he refused to provide personal financial information in an attorney fee dispute.

Now? He is still in jail, Dan Walters writes in a column for the Sacramento Bee, if not still a lawyer: The State Bar of California indicates that he has been disbarred.

Fine has been a longtime critic of Los Angeles County’s practice of giving its judges nearly $50,000 in extra pay over their state salaries, and says that it creates a conflict of interest for judges hearing cases involving the county, Walters writes. And, on top of that, Fine says that because of the extent of his criticism, it’s a conflict for any judge to hear a case involving him.

A state appellate court agreed with Fine in 2008, saying the payments violated California’s constitution. But the legislature passed a retroactive authorization of the payments last year, Walters writes.

Fine has petitioned for his release, but the California Supreme Court refuses to interfere, and the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has denied his petition, Walters writes.

“Fine holds the key to his jail cell,” Kevin McCormick, an attorney for the Los Angeles court, said in an appellate brief. “By simply agreeing to answer the questions and produce documents concerning his assets, that he has a legal obligation to provide, his coercive confinement will end.”

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.