In rare move, judge finds attorney in contempt | StarTribune.com

Posted: May 31, 2011 by scaryhouse in Uncategorized

Article by: DAVID CHANEN

In a move that veteran court observers say they cannot recall seeing before, a Hennepin County judge this week found a highly regarded defense attorney in contempt for failing to show up to the start of her client’s trial and referred the case for possible criminal charges.

The strained courtroom relationship between Judge William Howard and attorney M. Tayari Garrett started months ago when he repeatedly denied a variety of pretrial motions in the mortgage-fraud case, and she claimed he violated state trial-procedure rules in several instances. This led Garrett to ask for Howard’s removal from the case on grounds of judicial misconduct and racial bias against her and her client, both black women.

In his contempt order Wednesday, Howard wrote that his decision was based squarely on Garrett’s failure to appear for trial May 2 or any other date until she was discharged as counsel May 11. He said she also failed to provide a good reason for her absence, but Garrett contends she made it clear that she had a medical emergency in Dallas.

Now, the matter has been referred to the county attorney’s office for a possible misdemeanor contempt charge. Office spokesman Chuck Laszewski said nobody could recall the last time, if ever, an attorney was threatened with prosecution for contempt.

During a hearing this month, Howard said that “I’ve never seen behavior like this in 39 years in law, including 20 on the bench. It was flagrant, knowing and intentional. I don’t like that. I can’t do my job.”

Garrett, 35, who runs her own law firm based in Dallas, said Thursday that she hadn’t been notified of the contempt order. She said that there is “no meat” behind it and that she believes Howard’s action has “everything do with my public allegations of racism, judicial bias, incompetence and misuse of power.” If charged, she plans to fight in court, she said. She has already filed a complaint with the state’s Board on Judicial Standards.

“After my allegations, Judge Howard found me in a vulnerable position because of my illness and used that as an opportunity to assassinate my character in open court with half truths and ignorance,” she said in an interview from Dallas.

Rick Petry, Garrett’s attorney in the contempt case, said he has always found Howard to be a good judge. Howard and the prosecutor may have been frustrated because the case got bogged down in motion actions, Petry said. “Ms. Garrett did not intentionally try to deceive the court and didn’t do anything improper,” he said. “This is not the end of the story.”

via In rare move, judge finds attorney in contempt | StarTribune.com.

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