April 10, 2007
Standing up for one’s client’s is a lawyer’s duty. Building a record for appeal is good lawyering. Apparently doing both in Georgia can get you in jail. Sherri Jefferson, an Assistant Public Defender in the Brunswick Judicial District, was sentenced to thirty (yes 30) days for her conduct in a delinquency hearing.
Granted, contempt happens. Granted, trial courts sometimes do wacky things. Granted, finding a public defender in contempt won’t get it noted here, or much of anywhere, as rarely are such findings upheld on appeal.
A split panel, 4-3. on appeal in In re Sherri Jefferson, 2007 Ga. App. LEXIS 391 (Ga. Ct. App. 2007), upheld.
She was found in contempt, as the Chief Judge Barnes notes in dissent for the rather tepid comments that follow:
Jefferson was found in contempt for stating, “[T]hat’s a gross interference with the way that I can represent my client, your Honor” in response to the juvenile court’s ruling that she could not question the investigating officer about the shooter’s statement before first calling the shooter himself to the stand. In making the statement, Jefferson was articulating the basis for her objection to the trial court’s ruling, albeit in a strenuous manner.
Jefferson also was found in contempt for stating “I just want the record to reflect with much respect, Your Honor, . . . I just find the Court is biased in its view. You say that you’re not prejudging the case but it seems to me like you’ve made up your mind and any and everything I do to effectively defend my client I’m being rebutted.” While the transcript of the delinquency hearing does not support a finding of bias, the fact that Jefferson was substantively wrong on this issue does not in itself render her allegation of bias contemptuous