Since I've been on an evil judge / heroic defense lawyer jag recently, I thought I'd bring you this gem:
Judge Jennifer Brunner sentenced a Franklin County lawyer to 40 days in jail.
His contumacious behavior? Telling the judge he thought she was "colluding with" the prosecutors in order to pressure his client to plead guilty.
Are you kidding me?
That's not contemptuous--that's reality. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t see a judge pressuring someone to take a DA’s offer. In a plea driven system, that’s how it goes, and when a frustrated lawyer tells it like it is, any judge worth their salt should shut up and take it like a judge not go around issuing contempt citations.
Now don’t give me any crap about the honor and integrity of the court or the courtroom. Anyone whose ever been inside a criminal courtroom knows it’s rough and tumble in there and if you can’t stand the heat—well your honor—get out of the kitchen.
Judge Brunner, other than seeming a little overly politically opportunistic (see her website here) doesn’t come across in her personal promotional literature as awful. But then again her website seems to carefully omit mention of this case.
Why? Because this is another judicial obscenity—one that in my view renders her utterly unfit for both the judiciary and unfit to be secretary of state—a post she will evidently be running for come August.
Here’s why, thanks to this incident, she goes on my list of nasties…
First, she should never have held Mr. Vogel in contempt. That is the kind of self-important intemperate imperious behavior we shouldn’t tolerate from judges.
Second, EVEN IF she held Mr. Vogel in contempt, she should have followed the lead of nearly every other jurist in the country and imposed a small fine—a powerful symbol of the court’s authority. Her sentence of 40 days was obscene.
Third, when, three days later she brought Mr. Vogel back to court, she should not have tried to force him to apologize and she certainly shouldn't have jailed him when he wouldn’t.
I have to think it was behavior like that that gave the jailed lawyer the sensed that Judge Brunner was colluding with the DA to coerce a plea! Is it farfetched to think that any judge who would be this coercive might also be nasty and coercive to criminal defendants appearing before her?
Instead, when Vogel refused to apologize, she sent him back to serve another month in jail. Shame on Judge Brunner. Any reasonable jurist would have simply lifted the contempt--point more than made.
Finally, not satisfied with sending a lawyer to jail for 40 days for saying she was “colluding with” the prosecutors (seems likely to me she was) she has also filed a grievance with the disciplinary committee looking to have the guy disbarred. That’s the kind of shameful vindictive behavior that should disqualify anyone from public office.
Contrast this with the post below about Orange County and you’ll get a sense of just how out of line Judge Brunner is.