Trials & Litigation

Nicotine addiction costs vaping trial lawyer more than $2,100

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A federal magistrate judge in Youngstown, Ohio, has sanctioned a suburban Cleveland lawyer more than $2,100 for vaping in the courtroom during the trial of an employment discrimination case.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Carmen E. Henderson imposed the sanction against lawyer David W. Neel during a Nov. 30 hearing, according to Law360 and a Nov. 30 minutes entry on PACER.

Henderson ordered Neel to pay a fine of $300 for each day that he vaped in the courtroom, which came to $1,800, and to pay a fine of $93 for the time that it took court personnel to review video footage. Henderson also ordered Neel to pay $250 in attorney fees to the opposing lawyer. The total comes to $2,143.

Law360 covered the Nov. 30 sanction hearing in which Neel admitted to courtroom vaping every day of the trial.

“It comes down to one word, and your honor, I’ve given this so much thought, the one word is addiction,” Neel said. “It’s not an excuse. I take full responsibility. Complete, full responsibility. But what brought me to this point is nicotine addiction.”

Neel said he is working to overcome his nicotine addiction and has seen a therapist.

In a Nov. 22 show-cause order, Henderson said an executive order bans smoking in federal buildings to protect government employees and members of the public from tobacco smoke.

Neel had represented the plaintiff, Diana Cranfield, who alleged that the Costco Wholesale Corp. discriminated against her on the basis of race. Jurors ruled for Costco.

Neel did not immediately respond to an ABA Journal voicemail and email seeking comment.

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