Legally Speaking: Disorder in the Court

John G. Browning Jun. 24, 2010, 8:48am

Some strange things have been going on in the legal system lately.
Maybe it's the heat; maybe it's something in the water.

All I know is that matters would be much more orderly if people would follow a few simple rules. Of course, the world might be a more boring place to live in, too.

Rule No. 1 – Don't Make The Judge Angry

Yuma, Ariz., resident Timothy Michael Jones may find this out the hard way. After being randomly selected as a prospective juror, Jones received a jury questionnaire.

Instead of filling it out, he took a black marker and scrawled obscenities in big letters all over the form before sending it back to the court clerk's office.

That was enough to land Jones a date in Superior Court with the judge, on an order to show cause why he should not be held in criminal contempt.

As if he wasn't already in enough hot water, Jones failed to appear, and a bench warrant has now been issued for his arrest. Jones faces up to six months in jail, where he can practice his writing skills all he wants.

Uros Novakovski of Montgomery County, Md., was already serving on a jury when he got crosswise with the judge.

When Judge Michael Algeo instructed the jurors in an attempted murder case to continue their deliberations, Novakovski refused. He repeatedly talked back to the judge and refused to go back in the jury room and keep on deliberating, saying Algeo couldn't force the jury to do so.

The judge declared a mistrial due to Novakovski's disruptive behavior, and then gave the renegade juror a quick civics lesson by sending him to jail for contempt of court.

Before heading off to the pokey, a chastened Novakovski claimed that a blood sugar imbalance was to blame for his abnormal behavior.

Mirza Zukanovic of Melbourne, Australia, also learned a lesson in courtroom behavior recently. The 20-year-old apprentice painter was in Magistrate Rodney Crisp's court for a hearing when he blew a bubble while chewing gum.

Judge Crisp promptly proceeded to hold a contempt hearing, find Zukanovic guilty, and slap him with a 30-day jail sentence.

Zukanovic is appealing the severity of the sentence, although he admits he'll never chew gum in court again.

I guess he feels he's had enough time to chew on this issue.

Rule No. 2 – A Contract is a Contract

Mexican bullfighter Christian Hernandez probably needs to find a new line of work.

The 22-year-old matador, who was gored in the leg several months ago, returned to the ring earlier this month in Mexico City – at least briefly.

In a rare moment for bullfighting, Hernandez made a spin with his red cape at the charging bull – and then turned tail and ran across the ring, dropping his cape and jumping over the wall to safety in a scene reminiscent of Sir Robin from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail."

The terrified torero (who's announced his retirement) may be safe from bulls, but there's no escaping the lawyers: he's been sued for breach of contract.

Rule No. 3 – The Devil is in the Details

Former Brooklyn, N.Y., school safety officer Velma Craig may have seen one too many "Exorcist" movies.

After the city changed police ID cards to include fingerprints and embedded computer chips as anti-terror measures, Officer Craig filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the card was possessed and that the new security measures were "the mark of the beast."

The lawsuit, which began in 2004, ended incredibly in 2007 with a judge actually finding in her favor and ruling that she'd been discriminated against.

Recently, the damages portion of the litigation concluded, and a different judge awarded Ms. Craig (who has since resigned from the force) only $1. I'm sure the devil was behind that, too.

Rule No. 4 – Officers, Be Careful Whom You Ticket

Computer network designer Brian McCrary wasn't too happy to receive a $90 speeding ticket earlier this year from the police in Bluff City, Tenn. Unfortunately for the cops, McCrary is a "don't get mad, get even" kind of guy.

When the police department accidentally let its website expire, he swooped in thanks to and acquired the domain rights for

Instead of official business, the site now posts gripes from McCrary and others who've been cited by the police for traffic infractions.

A sheepish police chief David Nelson blamed a staffer on medical leave for allowing the department's website to expire.

Rule No. 5 – Shooting Yourself in the Foot is Supposed to be Just an Expression

A bad decision or blown judgment call can lead many a lawyer to conclude that he has "shot himself in the foot."

Now, Toledo attorney Paul Redrup can be accused of actually shooting doing it.

On June 7 the lawyer was at the Wood County, Ohio, courthouse when he stopped at security to retrieve a gun he had placed in a locker before entering (he has a concealed carry permit).

As Redrup was putting the .40 caliber Smith & Wesson in his pocket, it discharged, hitting him in the right foot. The wound turned out, fortunately, to be superficial.

His pride, however, may take longer to heal.

Rule No. 6 – Only Use 911 In Real Emergencies

I've previously written about individuals abusing the 911 emergency service for mundane matters. Add Charles Dennison of Pasco County, Fla., to that list.

The-32 year-old man recently called 911 to complain that his mother had taken his beer and he wanted her arrested. Instead, the sheriff who arrived arrested the "very intoxicated" Mr. Dennison for making a false 911 call.

And pity the poor guy in Iowa City, who recently made a 911 call to report that he'd been punched by an unknown assailant.

While he was in mid-call, a friend of the first assailant punched the victim again, knocking him to the ground. Punched while reporting a punch – I'm sure he's seen better days.

Rule No. 7 – Sometimes You're Darned if You Do, and Darned If You Don't

Attorney Brittney Horstman recently set off the metal detector while visiting a client at the Miami Federal Detention Center.

No, she wasn't packing heat. She was wearing an underwire bra.

When the guards refused to allow her to enter and see her client, Horstman stepped into the ladies room and removed her bra.

In her blouse and jacket, she cleared the metal detector – only to be denied admittance once again. This time, the guards said, she'd run afoul of prison dress code guidelines by being braless.

Understandably upset that her client was denied access to counsel, Horstman e-mailed a group of fellow defense lawyers, and noted that the detention facility was violating its own procedures, which previously allowed entry for female attorneys wearing underwire bras after they've been "wanded" by guards to determine why the metal detector was set off.

Horstman had been permitted to enter on previous occasions under this very sort of procedure. Detention center officials had no comment.

Haven't I seen those guards somewhere before – perhaps working for TSA at the airport?

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