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A Lawyer’s Bad Morning

Dave Hoffman

Dave Hoffman is the Murray Shusterman Professor of Transactional and Business Law at Temple Law School. He specializes in law and psychology, contracts, and quantitative analysis of civil procedure. He currently teaches contracts, civil procedure, corporations, and law and economics.

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13 Responses

  1. Michael Lee says:

    Another example of a judge bending over backwards to protect a fellow member of the legal community. It doesn’t matter how unpardonable your behavior…if you are part of the club…you walk.

    If that idiot had not been a lawyer, the judge would have crushed him.

  2. I don’t think the judge knew exactly what to do. The blood alcohol limit is probably .08, and he blew a .075. So, she can’t arrest him for public intoxication. However, she knows that he’s been in her court for almost 2 1/2 hours, so he was almost certainly intoxicated when he drove to court and when he entered her court. But she’s not sure what she can do about that, which is why she looked to the prosecutor to help her out. She’s not the police; her concern is whether he can represent his client, and she does not think he can. So now she has to decide how to bar him from the courtroom under bar rules and not public intoxication rules. He has obviously lied to her, but he was not under oath and she can’t prove that he lied without external evidence. She’s in a very tough situation. In hindsight (from my experience watching Law & Order) I would have held him in contempt. Either way, through the Bar or through a malpractice action or just through the market, I think he will be punished.

  3. Roger says:

    So do we know what happened? It cut off for me with the judge not knowing what to do.

    Contempt sounds right to me.

  4. Dave Hoffman says:

    Here’s part 1:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yV2qtvbIPFE

    There may be a part 3, but it isn’t up on YouTube yet.

    I otherwise agree with Christine’s spot-on comment.

  5. Calvin Massey says:

    It’s sad all the way around. Too many lawyers have substance abuse problems; too many lawyers have a problem acknowledging responsibility for their own misbehavior. That said, I would drop the contempt hammer on this fellow, mostly for his lies to the court, but also for his irresponsible behavior to his client. Maybe we should ask our students to watch this video as a reminder of how not to behave.

  6. Roger says:

    Ah, no, but the description for part 2 says “part 3 coming soon!”

  7. Nate Oman says:

    I agree with Christine here. The judge can’t prosecute this guy for a crime. I do think that contempt would be appropriate and not simply for lying to the court. Appearing before a judge drunk certain shows disrespect for the tribunal and undermines its proceedings.

  8. S.cotus says:

    I don’t think the judge could have known for sure. The videotape doesn’t show anything that would constitute probable cause.

    She could probably not hold in him contempt since she keeps referring to things outside the courtroom. On top of that, the actual reading it .075, anyway.

    Also, she can’t charge people with a crime. That was silly. Indeed, in looking at it, I think that her constant statements that she “cares” and “doesn’t want to hurt him” are a little disingenuous. She has already done enough to his reputation.

  9. Bruce Boyden says:

    There was a link to the local news coverage of this incident on How Appealing or somewhere a couple of weeks ago. Here’s the AP report. (Result: Mistrial declared.) I recall reading somewhere else that Caramagno is a well known defense attorney in Las Vegas.

  10. ohwilleke says:

    S.O.P., at the very least, would be for someone to report this to the bar disciplinary authorities. Under oath or not, is a clear and blatant violation of professional ethics to lie to a judge in court. Simply showing up to court 90 minutes late is bad. Being under the influence in court when handling a very serious case is a serious problem.

    Does he get disbarred? Maybe, maybe not. But, this would clearly justify a suspension from practice, because the risk of harm to the client is so great and the disrepresect for the court so blatant, and there was enough happening in court (like misidentifying the “girlfriend”) that contempt of court (possibly in a later hearing rather than on the spot) is clearly justified.

  11. Ross says:

    What do you think would happen to a physician found to be intoxicated while preparing to operate on a patient?

  12. S.cotus says:

    Ross, Drunk doctors that operate on patients might be suspended from practice. If they are sued for malpractice, they blame the lawyers and frivolous lawsuits. Since they rarely operate drunk on people that matter it isn’t much of a problem. A better question would be: what if a doctor operated on a doctor or lawyer drunk.

    Ohwilleke: As a rule of thumb, when my opponent says something is clear: I win. Whether he was “under the influence” is a bit of a gray area, since his blood alcohol content wasn’t that high. Contempt generally refers to actions taken deliberately. If, for example, he had some alcohol in his blood, but not enough to be too drunk to legally drive, and got into a car accident, resulting in disorientation, he wouldn’t be in contempt.

    Finally, merely being drunk in court might not even be contempt. Heck, in some courts, ½ the people in court have some booze in their system. (Prosecutors, too.) Instead, the question is whether he actually violated an order, or somehow did something to disrupt the trial.

    Strangely, courts are not that concerned with allegations of drunk lawyers made post-trial by defendants who were found guilty. I guess their liberty interests are attenuated, because, after all, they are the kind of person who got a drunk lawyer.

  13. Fred H says:

    The guy can be removed from the case by the Judge as impaired. He will be sanctioned and sent to a program and will be suspended for a period of time,if not , disbarred.

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