Monday, June 14, 2010

Attorneys, Judges and Respect

Classic story out of Ramsey County, Minnesota reported at relating to the conundrum of the lawyer chronically late to court and how that makes the Judge feel--irked.  Emily Gurnon reports:

"A nasty public dust-up between a Ramsey County judge and a public defender will soon find itself in the state Court of Appeals.

District Judge William H. Leary found veteran public defender Marilyn Knudsen in contempt of court after she filed a notice to remove him from two cases but didn't follow his order to show up in court to finalize it.  Depending on who's describing it, the case stems either from a defense attorney who is chronically late and confrontational with judges or from a judge with a short fuse.  Judges and attorneys contacted for this story, including Leary and Knudsen, declined to comment on the record.  But the court transcript details the clash that led to the contempt charges.

'First of all, you were under a court order to appear at 9 o'clock this morning,' Leary told Knudsen on Oct. 28, according to the transcript. 'You failed to appear at the time.'

She said she was there about 9:20, talking with a client.

Knudsen, 64, had filed a notice to remove Leary as the judge in the cases of two clients, Jesus Matias and Demetrius Miller. Such notices involving judges are not unusual. Leary said he wanted her to be in court so that those involved could discuss whether her notice — which she said was filed the day before — was timely.   His clerk located Knudsen and told her the judge wanted her to appear. She refused.  Knudsen said she had never had to make an appearance in front of a judge she had removed.

'The other thing is, Your Honor, it's my understanding that statements by clerks are not orders, and I think there's case law (on that), and I rely on case law,' Knudsen said.  'Let me stop you right there,' the judge responded. 'So it's your understanding that the only time that you're obligated to follow the order of a court is if you hear it directly from me, from a judge?'

'Or in writing,' Knudsen said.

Leary said he was finding her in contempt on both criminal files and ordered her to pay a $100 fine on each. Knudsen protested that day, and her appeal asserts that she was entitled to a trial before Leary found her guilty of the petty misdemeanor.  The court of appeals hearing is set for July." 
Correct me but I'm guessing you aren't reading anything in this story that sounds all that "nasty" as the reporter characterizes the exchange between court and counsel.  But trust me, to appreciate this story you have to read between the lines--this Judge is mad, and I bet he's seen this out of  this lawyer on several occasions as I've seen it happen a hundred times or more over the years.  While everyone uses, polite language on the "record" this is an irate Judge and it sounds like either an overworked or careless lawyer.

Even before I became a licensed lawyer I worked for a lawyer who played the clock like horseshoes:  he'd show up for 9 AM hearing at 11:30 AM.  I thought and still think he was the rudest and most inconsiderate person I knew.  He's still practicing law, I'm not. 

Don't do this sort of thing.  No one, the court, opposing counsel least of all your client deserves to be treated disrespectfully.  You waste the time not only of the judge, but of all the court personnel.  This can not possibly be advantageous to your cause or your client with this sort of disrespectful behavior.  On the rare occasion when you are late, call ahead and alert the court.


  1. I have personally hired Mrs. Knudsen in the past and have found her to be very much as she is described here. Chronically late and never apologetic about her mistakes. This situation involving Marilyn doesn't surprise me.

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  4. In case you haven't heard, Ms Knudsen won her case against the judge

  5. I was a client of Ms. Knudsen and let me just say she SUCKED as an attorney. I watched her piss off two different judges, and she is prejudiced against conservatives. I recall her being late more than once for our meetings but not for court. I didn't like her, she didn't like me. With that being said, I was looking at nine months in the clink and she got me a $50 fine and no time. She DOES fight for her clients. My personal opinion of her doesn't match my opinion of her as an attorney. For a public pretender, she did me right.