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Tuesday
May112010

First Amendment and Contempt of Couort

May 11, 2010
 
In the Chicago Papers initially, and now we understand on National TV, plays out an interesting legal dramma involving some interesting questions:
 
In Judge Helen Rosenberg's Courtroom in Lake County, Illinois (Circuit Court of the 19th. Judicial Circuit) a young woman appeared (apparently as a witness, not as a party) clad in what Judge Rosenberg felt was inappropriate attire - specifically in a T shirt across the front of which was written "Pussy Rules - I have the pussy, I make the rules". Judge singled the girl out, found her in direct contempt of court, and sentenced her to 48 hours in the Lake County Jail.
 
Following the article in the Chicago Tribune, there were many comments - some highly critical of the Judge but many others supporting her actions. Questsion: Did the Judge over react?
 
On one hand, a person has the right to freely express ones self - basic First Amendment. On the other , our courts deserve respect. It has often been said that your are respecting the institution of the court - not the individual who happens to occupy the bench. In the 40 some odd years I have been practising law, I have seen courtroom attire on the part of some attorneys degenerate from a suit to a rumpled sports coat and a wrinkled paid of khakis. (I still wear a suit whenever I appear in Court, but I guess thats just me!)
 
My own opinion is that the best course of action open to the Court would be for the judge to quietly ask her bailiff to request the young woman to leave the courtroom. What do you think?
 
Incidently, it was just reported in this evenings news that the young woman has retained an attorney and is filing suit against the judge. Perhaps she found one with a rumpled sports coat!
 
 
 

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Reader Comments (1)

Good for the victim. I hope she wins the lawsuit. I doubt that a money judgment would come out of the judge's pocket. The state will have to pay it as North Carolina did when Judge Zoro Guice locked up a wheel-chaired woman in the courtroom and prevented her from going to the bathroom. She was forced to urinate on herself as a consequence of the judge's violation of legislation to protect persons with disabilities, The Americans with Disabilities Act.

Here is the 4th Circuit reversing the lower court's order dismissing the complaint. Aftewards the State of NC settled:
http://openjurist.org/68/f3d/460/livingston-v-j-guice-united-states

And I understand ACLU collected a nice fee.

May 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNClawyer

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