Defense Attorney on Other End of Justice System
A defense attorney from Wisconsin, Michael Petersen, recently found himself at the other end of a judge’s diatribe and merciless judgement. This came after Petersen was charged with, and convicted of, criminal contempt of court. It is not often that a judge takes such measures, but this case was exceptional for all the wrong reasons.
In the contempt proceedings, Petersen was accused of violating important ethical rules and shirking duties to his client. Most egregiously, the attorney withheld information from the court, and lied to his client about a plea agreement in the client’s criminal case. These two violations brought down Judge Phillip Kirk’s hammer, so to speak.
Petersen advised his client to plead guilty to one crime with the promise that the prosecutor would reduce the charges later on. The problem was that the prosecutor had made no such promise, and as a result his client was advised to do something against his interest. If true, this is clearly a violation of attorney-client ethical obligations, and plainly wrong.
Judge Kirk certainly manufactured a creative sentence for Petersen’s violations. According to reports, the attorney was sentenced to 12 months probation, during which he must include the words “crook,” “cheat,” “thief,” and “liar” in a disclosure he must provide to each one of his clients. Judge Kirk also made Petersen read the words aloud in open court, in front of several of his professional peers. In handing down this unusual sentence, the judge is reported to have used coarse language and said he hopes the attorney has as much business “as a pimp in a nursing home.”
Contempt of Court Attorney Duties to Client
Contempt of court is an especially serious matter when a judge levies it against an attorney. Under our system of justice, a judge is granted a great deal of deference while in the courtroom. To maintain order and establish authority, the judge is given extraordinary powers. As a result, when an attorney or other person in court disrespects a judge or violates a court order, the judge has the authority to punish that behavior via contempt charges, until the behavior changes. That is what happened in this case; the judge saw the attorney’s conduct as an act of contempt in his court, and punished it accordingly.
Attorney duties to clients are a different matter. These are important for a host of reasons, not the least of which is to protect the client’s interests and establish a relationship of trust between client and attorney. Every attorney is under a positive obligation to be honest with his or her client in every given situation. And in a recent Supreme Court opinion, it was ruled by the highest court in the land that attorney’s have an obligation to tell their criminal defense clients of every plea offer made by the prosecution.
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Please contact Attorney Tony Moss at the Tony Moss Firm, L.L.C. to discuss your criminal case, or any other legal predicament you find yourself in. He has offices located in Miami and Fort Lauderdale and is prepared to put his 27 years of experience to work for you.