Ethics Lesson: Show Up to Trial

Today’s Ethics Lesson teaches us that you should show up for your client’s trial.

A criminal defense attorney (“Attorney”) in Ohio was hired to represent a defendant who was charged with rape of a minor under 13.  After the Court denied Attorney’s request to continue the criminal trial to accommodate for Attorney traveling for his son’s wedding, and because the Court refused to appoint the expert witness Attorney had requested, he decided to employ a “new strategy.”

On the day of the trial, Attorney appeared in court with his client and his own counsel.  According to the Ohio Supreme Court, “[Attorney] said nothing about his refusal to participate in the trial until he was at a sidebar in the open courtroom in the presence of the jury venire. He then announced, ‘[I] cannot and will not be able nor willing to proceed today.’” (I’m sure you can imagine that this went over well with the judge).

Attorney continued to refuse to participate in the trial, despite the Court’s order to proceed.  On several occasions the Court asked Attorney to step away from the bench, but Attorney (not surprisingly) refused.  As such, the trial moved forward despite Attorney’s refusal to participate.

Attorney’s client was convicted on all counts and sentenced to 60 months’ imprisonment on two counts of gross sexual imposition and to life without the possibility of parole on two counts of rape.  The Court found Attorney in contempt and imposed a $250 fine and 30 days in jail, which he served.

Fortunately for Attorney’s client, the court of appeals reversed his conviction finding that the client was deprived of his constitutional right to the effective assistance of counsel.

We use the phrase “zealous advocacy” in the legal world when describing an attorney’s passionate activism for their client.  This case demonstrates the exact opposite and would be more appropriately described as a temper tantrum.  Needless to say, at a basic level, this lesson reminds us that if your client is on trial, you should probably be there.