Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Attorney found in contempt, fined $2K for missing sentencing hearing

U.S. v. Hernandez, 771 F.3d 707 (11/14/14) (Col.) (Published) - The 10th affirms a direct contempt finding and $2,000 sanction for an attorney's absence from a sentencing hearing. After a sentencing hearing was rescheduled by virtue of an order which said no further continuances would be granted, Mr. Velasco, the attorney, arranged a family vacation out of town. The district court denied the attorney's motion for a continuance. Mr. Velasco did not show up for sentencing and his client did not accept the substitute counsel Mr. Velasco sent. Mr. Velasco argued on appeal that the d. ct. should have followed the procedures required for indirect contempt. The 10th reviewed for plain error because Mr. Velasco, although he objected on other grounds, never mentioned the distinction between direct and indirect contempt. Any error was not plain because this situation was different from another case where indirect contempt procedures were warranted for an attorney who was five minutes late. In this case, "the absence was a part of a series of larger events suggesting a conscious disregard of the court's procedures." Plus, the 10th ruled, Mr. Velasco got ample opportunity to defend himself, so he got enough procedure such that the contempt finding does not affect the fairness, integrity or public reputation of judicial proceedings.