Lawyer who threatened to pursue citizen's arrest of judge is suspended for 30 days

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A Tennessee lawyer has been suspended for a courtroom confrontation in which he threatened to pursue a judge’s citizen’s arrest and later criticized the judge on social media and in an ad he placed in the local newspaper.

Edward Lee Kershaw of Greeneville was suspended for 30 days and placed on license probation for three more months, according to an announcement by the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Board of Professional Responsibility.

Kershaw had argued his statements were protected by the First Amendment, according to a May 10 memorandum and order by a chancery court. The court laid out the factual allegations and concluded suspension was warranted.

In the courtroom confrontation, Kershaw was representing a man in a preliminary hearing who was accused of the misdemeanor assault of his former girlfriend. The alleged victim started crying while testifying.

“Can I have some tissue, too, because I have to cry as well?” Kershaw said before he began his cross-examination. The judge told Kershaw his comment was “not appropriate at all” and “absolutely uncalled for.”

Then, during the cross-examination, Kershaw asked the alleged victim about her testimony that Kershaw’s client had yanked her into a car against her will. “When he yanked you into the car,” Kershaw asked, “did angels magically protect you from getting marks?”

The judge told Kershaw he was testing his patience. “That goes both ways,” Kershaw responded.

The judge held Kershaw in contempt, placed him in custody and declared a short recess. When the hearing resumed, the judge fined Kershaw $50.

Kershaw told the judge that he had been held improperly, adding: “I’m going to do my best to take out a citizen’s arrest warrant against you because that is permitted under the state of law. And I will also turn that into the judiciary board.”

The judge told Kershaw that he was at one time a very capable lawyer, but his “continued course of destruction is unfortunate.” The judge said Kershaw’s behavior toward the judiciary had raised concerns among other judges as well.

The ad Kershaw placed in the newspaper did not refer to the judge by name. It said the judge had yelled at a lawyer in court “in a manner that the attorney has never been yelled at like in his entire life and that is completely inappropriate in the courtroom.”

A recording of the courtroom confrontation indicates the judge did not yell at Kershaw, the chancery court said.

Kershaw continued his criticism on social media, naming the judge and saying that he is “in my opinion the most unethical judge in the state.” He also wrote, “Did you know that several judges in Tennessee are unethical? Especially in Greene County.”

The Board of Professional Responsiblity said Kershaw knew his statement about the judge was untrue, and he made statements in social media about all the judges in Greene County with a reckless disregard for the truth. His statements in the courtroom confrontation were intended to embarrass a witness and disrupt judicial proceedings, the board said.

The voice mailboxes for Kershaw’s law office and cellphone were full and unable to take messages. Kershaw did not immediately respond to a text seeking comment.

Hat tip to Law360.

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