Trials & Litigation

Courtroom 'shoutfest' over scheduling conflict results in $200 fine for lawyer

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A California lawyer is planning to appeal a $200 contempt fine imposed when frustrations over a scheduling conflict reached a boil in a Stanislaus County courtroom.

The Modesto Bee says lawyer Frank Carson and Judge Linda McFadden yelled at each other for more than 20 minutes, as each accused the other of shouting and being disrespectful. The newspaper headline termed the imbroglio a “shoutfest.”

Lawyer Frank Carson told the Modesto Bee of his plans to fight the sanction. “It’s stupid, and I’m going to appeal it,” he said.

Carson is defending a defendant charged with second-degree murder on April 15 and a defendant in another trial scheduled for May 6. He is also defending an accused murderer in McFadden’s courtroom. The Tuesday hearing was scheduled to determine whether the trial before McFadden should begin on April 23.

According to the Modesto Bee account, Carson complained that “the judges all seem to think that they have a priority” and judges have a tendency to “kowtow” to prosecutors when scheduling trials. McFadden said she considered Carson’s comments to be disparaging. Carson said he did not and would not disparage the county’s judges and told McFadden to go ahead and schedule an April 23 trial.

McFadden told Carson he would be sanctioned if he did not appear on that date. At that point, the newspaper says, Carson appeared to turn his back. McFadden shouted at Carson to sit down and pointed her finger, the newspaper says. He shouted back, while remaining standing, “Do not shout at me. … Do not point your finger at me!”

“And you will stop shouting at me!” McFadden replied.

The newspaper describes the reaction. “A few people in the courtroom audience gasped as the two shouted at each other,” the story says. “Three bailiffs and several attorneys watched in apparent disbelief.”

The argument ended when the judge called for a noon break, the story says.

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