A Few Thoughts Concerning My Contempt Citation
Posted on Dec 6, 2009 12:00am PST
As many of you now know, I am no longer a criminal as I have been absolved of the contempt charge brought against me by Judge Rachel Walker as of December 4, 2009.
The facts of my contempt charge are as follows: I saw my physician a few days prior to trial as I was suffering from flu-like symptoms. He advised that I might be feeling better within 4-6 days. I showed up to court on a true first trial setting, was ordered to present a motion, and then informed Judge Walker I was too sick to do a two to three day jury trial. The judge really lost it and accused me of lying about being sick(even in the face of proof to the contrary: my medical records). The judge also ordered me handcuffed, called me arrogant, advised my client to get another attorney, and notified me that she would not recuse herself from any of my cases as it would make it too easy on my "poor, unfortunate clients." Channel 4 News broadcast part of the proceedings.
As a member of the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, I was entitled to free representation. I was represented by Joe M. Romero, Jr., Dennis Montoya and Ahmad Assed. I have tremendous respect for Joe as a fearless trial lawyer. Dennis is fearless litigator that takes many cases on principle alone --the sign of not only a good lawyer, but a great person. Ahmad is known to be a gifted and experienced negotiator. Together, I had the dream team.
The publicity that came with my contempt hearing brought to light the state of the judiciary at the Metropolitan Court --a twenty-second long snapshot of what Metro Court practitioners tolerate too often. I am glad that Channel 4 News captured and aired part of the debacle. "Journalism should afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted." (Jack King). Many of the judges there are professional and conduct court business in an appropriate manner. Others could use some improvement. I hope that my experience inspired more attorneys to take a stand for a more professional judiciary as demanded by the largest non-obligatory bar association in America, The American Bar Association:
“(4) A judge shall be patient, dignified and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers and others with whom the judge deals in an official capacity....”
American Bar Association’s Model Code of Judicial Conduct, Cannon 3,
(accessed November 9, 2009).
Prior to my sentencing hearing, I was contacted either directly, or indirectly by quite a few judges and lawyers. I was surprised by how many of them wanted me to try to resolve the case short of a hearing/appeal on the merits. Many of them wanted to avoid shining a light on how things go down at the Metropolitan Court --the way Judge Walker flew off the handle (I don't mean to infer that the Court is usually on the handle)was a real black eye to the judiciary and the adjudicatory process. I received e-mails from former clients --one who remembers how the judge lost self-control during her hearing, and another just to show support. The insights and support I received were greatly appreciated.
On the morning of what was supposed to be my sentencing hearing, Judge Walker, after my attorneys filed a very thorough and well-reasoned brief that basically outlined why I was unjustly accused, unjustly convicted, and denied substantive and procedural due process along the way, apologetically dismissed the citation.
I am very thankful for the members of New Mexico's Criminal Defense Lawyer's Association (NMCDLA) for standing behind me in the face of my case and the judges that asked by words or implication to remain anonymous for their help, guidance and support.
I have to say, however, that I am proud to have done the right things from beginning to end to ensure that my client got his fair trial. Once he did get a fair trial, he was, of course, ultimately acquitted.