Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Summary Contempt

An attorney who also served as an elected public official entered an appearence in a criminal case but did not appear for trial. The attorney had learned that the prosecutor intended to stet the case, advised the client and attempted unsucessfully to arrange for substitute counsel. The client wanted the deal and decided to proceed without counsel. The attorney was in another city for a legislative conference.

The trial judge issued a show cause and assigned a special prosecutor rather than sanction the attorney by means of summary contempt.  The judge thereafter vacated the order and converted the matter into a summary contempt proceeding. The Maryland Court of Appeals held that "the court against which a direct contempt is committed can punish that contempt summarily at the time it is committed or immediately after the proceeding." If it does not, the court "foregoes its opportunity to proceed summarily." Thus, the trial court erred in imposing sanctions for summary contempt, requiring a remand.


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