Brian Rogers is reporting that Juan Leonardo Quintero's defense attorney, Danalynn Recer was held in contempt this morning.
Recer's co-counsel on the case told the Chronicle that the reasoning was that she "forgot a doctor's report at her office this morning, delaying the court about 10 minutes while it was faxed over", although I highly doubt that Judge Joan Campbell would have found her in contempt for something so minor. This is just me arm-chair quarterbacking here, but my guess is that Recer's behavior throughout the case (and perhaps her e-mail to the media) probably may have had some influence in Judge Campbell's decision.
I say good for Judge Campbell.
The hearing regarding the contempt will be held after the Quintero trial is over, but Danalynn has been put on notice that the judge is going to make her play by the rules.
I know I'm a day late and a dollar short with this topic, because Mark discussed contempt at length in the amusing Adam Reposa articles on his blog, but I think there is a tad bit more to discuss on the topic. By the way, I think that Reposa's 90-day sentence was pretty outrageous. I've heard about some of the things he's done in court in Travis County, and I'm not so certain that perhaps a night in jail might have been warranted, but ninety freaking days? Come on. That's like your whole summer vacation when you're a kid.
Holding an attorney in contempt is often times the only effective way to curb "bad behavior" by the defense bar. Don't get in a tizzy, defense bar, because I'm not singling you out. I'm just saying a Judge has more remedies to curb bad behavior of the prosecution. Those non-contempt sanctions can run from calling your boss (and getting you disciplined or even fired) to granting a mistrial based on prosecutorial misconduct (thus barring a retrial).
The reaction to threats of contempt or even findings of contempt vary amongst defense attorneys. Most are very deferential to the court and have no desire to draw the ire of a Judge they will be practicing in front of for years to come. A small minority could care less.
For those who could care less, the reason is mainly because attorneys rarely (if ever) actually go to jail after being held in contempt. They are entitled to be released on a PR bond, and the sanctions usually work out in the form of a donation to a worthy cause (and no, that doesn't mean the judge's campaign). Normally the contempt charge dies a quiet and places like Star of Hope and the Houston Area Women's Shelter get a much-needed donation. The attorney apologizes. The judge accepts it. Life goes on.
Reposa's situation is the only account I've ever heard of someone actually being ordered to spend some time in the pokey after committing a "bad court thingy".
I doubt that Recer is losing any sleep over being held in contempt, and I also doubt it is going to change the way she has behaves in for the remainder of the trial. She's a true-believer, anti-death penalty advocate, and I would imagine she would wear spending some time in jail like a badge of honor (simply because it happened during a death penalty trial).
On a side note, as I've mentioned earlier on, one of my favorite Judges, Judge George Godwin, is retiring at the end of the year. Judge Godwin has always run his court in the utmost professional manner, and you can bet your rear-end that means that punctuality is a must. When he schedules a hearing for 8:00 a.m., everybody had damn well better be present and accounted for.
The first time you are tardy to a hearing, Judge Godwin will tersely, yet politely explain to you that you get "one free one" for being late. The second one "will cost you", meaning contempt. The part where it gets amazing is that he doesn't mean the second one in a week, month, year, decade or even millennium.
He means the second one ever.
A friend of mine (who shall remain nameless) in the defense bar had the misfortune to show up tardy for hearing in the last year or so. Judge Godwin told him: "Mr. ____, you were late this morning. My records show that you were late for a hearing on April 24, 1987. Do you care to tell me why I shouldn't hold you in contempt?"
Judge Godwin keeps his record in a book, and I'm sure it reads like a Who's Who of the famous and infamous attorneys that have practiced law in Harris County over the past two decades. Personally, I think that is one of those awesome things that gives our legal community character.
I know that when Judge Godwin retires, he will take "the Book" with him, but man oh man, if he were to put it up for auction (like for a good cause, perhaps), I wouldn't be surprised to see that thing sell for thousands of dollars.