Legal Ethics

Judge Appoints PD, Has Him Arrested

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Updated: Criminal law blogs are abuzz over the contempt case of Brian Jones, an assistant public defender in Portage County, Ohio.

Seems that Jones was appointed Wednesday by Portage County Municipal Court Judge John Plough to represent Jordan Scott, 20, on a charge of misdemeanor assault. The trial was then scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday, but the judge moved it back—by two-and-a-half hours—to give Jones more time to prepare, reports the Record-Courier.

With the trial about to begin, Jones said he couldn’t proceed because he wasn’t ready, in accord with what a source said is a written policy for the office not to take cases to trial on such short notice. The judge then held him in contempt, the newspaper writes, “and ordered a Portage County Sheriff’s deputy to remove Jones from his courtroom in front of his client, spectators and courthouse employees.”

The assistant PD was held for five hours before being released on bond, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Dennis Lager, chief public defender, said this is the second time Plough has ordered an assistant public defender arrested, and said the judge had also threatened what the Plain Dealer describes as “similar action” twice in 2006, the newspaper reports. Each time, the issue was that the judge expected an assistant PD to try a case within a day or two of being assigned.

Criminal defense bar associations have rallied to Jones’ defense. Meanwhile, Plough was unapologetic Thursday, saying that “The public defender’s office is not going to impede justice in Portage County,” the Record-Courier reports. The judge is a controversial former Portage County prosecutor who won an upset victory in a contested November 2005 judicial election after being rated “not recommended” by the Portage County Bar Association, the newspaper writes.

Since this post was written, there has been another hearing in the contempt case and Brian Jones was fined by Plough (the fine was suspended pending appeal). For more details, see the latest post.

(Hat tip: CrimLaw.)

(Updated at 7:02 p.m., central time, on Aug. 27, 2007.)

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