Criminal Justice

Pregnant criminal defense lawyer on bed rest loses trial-delay bid in top state court

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The Ohio Supreme Court on Sunday rejected a bid by a pregnant lawyer on bed rest to stay a trial scheduled to begin the next day.

The state supreme court ruled against lawyer Chelsea J. Panzeca in her emergency bid to stay the May 8 trial of her client, while the justices consider whether to direct the trial judge to grant a continuance.

Justice Jennifer Brunner said she would have granted the stay in a dissent joined by Justice Michael P. Donnelly.

Law360 has the story.

Panzeca represents Ronald W. Shepard, who is charged with gross sexual imposition against a child victim. Panzeca works at Bleile & Dawson, a law firm that focuses its practice on defending people who have been charged with sex crimes.

It is “standard practice” at Panzeca’s firm for her to take the lead in Ohio criminal cases, like the instant one in which the alleged victim is a child, Panzeca said in her May 3 mandamus complaint.

Panzeca’s assisting counsel is hard of hearing.

Panzeca’s due date for her twins is May 25. She agreed to a May 8 trial date in Highland County, Ohio, before she was told to stay in bed because of a medical condition.

The trial judge should have granted the continuance as reasonable under the circumstances, Brunner wrote in her dissent. Now, Panzeca’s only access to the trial will be to watch it on YouTube.

“Surely, this is not practicing law,” Brunner wrote.

Any attempt by Panzeca to communicate with her co-counsel by texts or emails “would only serve as a distraction,” Brunner said.

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