Trials & Litigation

Federal judge orders arrest of New Jersey lawyer for not complying with Ohio appearance demands

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A federal judge in Cleveland and a longtime New Jersey lawyer are at war over a civil case involving the attorney’s brother.

As of Thursday, U.S. District Judge Dan Polster had ordered the arrest of attorney John McDermott, for failing to comply with orders to appear in Ohio on Wednesday and Thursday and explain why McDermott should not be held in contempt, reports.

Meanwhile, McDermott said he has nothing to do with the federal case in Ohio, is not licensed to practice in the state, is not subject to the jurisdiction of Polster’s court, does not intend to take time away from his busy practice and pay the high price of last-minute, one-way airfare to appear in Ohio and plans to file a complaint about Polster to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

In a Wednesday letter (PDF), McDermott explained his position to the judge, also pointing out that attorney-client privilege would preclude him from discussing any client communications. Polster responded that his order, which at that point did not include an order to arrest McDermott, stood.

In a Wednesday hearing, Polster said McDermott “will be arrested and he will sit for a good while until I see him,” says a court transcript, in which a claim also is made that McDermott had told his brother not to appear for a settlement conference in Ohio the previous day. “If [McDermott] doesn’t like that, he can go to the 6th Circuit or Supreme Court,” Polster said.

McDermott, who has practiced in New Jersey since 1975, said he never told his brother not to attend the settlement conference. He does represent his sibling in a New Jersey case.

“I will say this: If I wind up getting arrested, this judge is going to pay the price,” McDermott told, adding: “I don’t say that lightly. I will use every possible constitutional means of my ability to pursue this.”

His brother, Gary McDermott, is a defendant in a civil case over a business dispute that is being overseen by Polster.

Gary McDermott did appear before the judge Wednesday after failing to appear at a settlement conference the previous day, reports. It is not clear whether the brother will face any sanctions.

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