I have shied away from blogging about the ongoing dispute between Hinds Circuit Judge Jeff Weill and the Hinds County Public Defender’s office because:
- there is a back story here that I don’t know; and
- I am not a criminal lawyer.
But I listened to the recording of the hearing last week posted on Jackson Jambalaya and feel qualified to comment about it. I was shocked by what I heard.
The public defenders who spoke on the recording were way out of line. Lawyers can’t act like that in court. Other people can’t either, but especially lawyers.
Let’s assume just for argument sake that Judge Weill was completely wrong on everything he did both before the hearing and during the hearing. Would that justify the public defenders refusing to stand down as ordered by the judge? No, it wouldn’t. You can’t do it. Period.
When an attorney appears before a judge, he is appearing before that Court. Disrespecting Judge Weill in his courtroom also disrespects Judges Green, Kidd and Gowan. It also shows disrespect for the Mississippi Supreme Court and Commission on Judicial Performance, because it’s basically saying you don’t trust them to do their jobs.
Trial judges don’t act with impunity. If they get out of line, there are ways to address it through either the Supreme Court or Commission on Judicial Performance. Refusing to obey in open Court is not an option.
Judge Weill showed great restraint in dealing with the disruptive behavior. I have seen judges blow-up over far less shows of disrespect. I have also seen the occasional instance where a trial judge appeared to be “off his meds” and act like a complete jack-ass to a lawyer or party. You hope judges have the judicial temperament to not blow up. But it’s not unheard of.
Remember what happened in My Cousin Vinnie when the judge thought that Joe Pesci was disrespecting the Court?
Lawyers have been held in contempt and thrown in the clink for less than what I heard on that recording. It was obvious grandstanding, so maybe that was what they were after.
I don’t know who’s right in the underlying dispute. But I’m in Judge Weill’s corner on the hearing last week.
Perhaps when Governor Winter finishes up mediating the IHL – Dan Jones dispute he can get the combatants in a room and get this dispute resolved without anymore outbursts that look bad for the entire legal system. Because no one will be happy if Butler Snow has to get involved.