Judge orders detention of public defender for 'acting like I'm some kind of idiot'

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A Wisconsin judge ordered a short detention for an assistant public defender last Friday, saying he was in contempt for “acting like I’m some kind of idiot.”

Judge David Borowski of Milwaukee County ordered the detention of Puck Tsai after the defense lawyer argued against modifying the signature bond for his client, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which obtained a transcript of the hearing.

Tsai’s client was accused of homicide by negligent operation of a motor vehicle in August. One of the conditions of his release is that he remain free of drugs and alcohol. Prosecutors asked for cash bail after a urine test showed a high level of water, which can be an indication of attempted tampering, according to the Journal Sentinel account.

Borowski said during the hearing that, if anything, the prosecution should be seeking a higher amount. “This is a homicide,” Borowski said. “I’m not playing games in this case.”

Tsai said the victim was at fault in the accident, and his client has defenses. Borowski countered that defenses don’t affect a bail decision. “Let’s all stop talking,” the judge said.

The defendant returned to his seat, but Tsai remained standing. “Is there something you want to say,” Borowski asked. “Or do you want to go into custody?”

Tsai then said his client is still innocent at this stage of the case.

“No kidding. I get that. Sit down,” Borowski said and ordered Tsai into detention.

“Rolling your eyes, throwing your hands in the air, acting like I’m some kind of idiot gets you locked up for contempt,” Borowski said.

Tsai returned to the courtroom after his supervisors spoke with Borowski. Tsai apologized and Borowski said he could be released.

According to the Journal Sentinel, it’s not the first time Borowski ordered contempt detentions. He previously did so for parties in probate cases and for a lawyer in a high-profile criminal case.

The Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Office released a statement to the newspaper. “The fact that our attorney was taken into custody, handcuffed and belly-chained for doing his job is unacceptable,” the statement said.

“The message this action sends to our attorneys, whose jobs are to be zealous advocates for the rights of their clients, undercuts a basic tenet of our justice system.”

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