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Criminal defendant back in jail after lawyer overslept

A man being accused of drug crimes is back in jail after a judge found him and his attorney in contempt of court when they were nearly an hour late to a jury selection hearing. The judge increased the man’s bail from $120,000, which he had already posted, to $3 million, leading him to be returned to the county jail after a hearing.

As we’ve discussed in the past, legal malpractice suits can be brought against attorneys who act in a way that substantially impacts the outcome of the case. For criminal cases, malpractice could be present when an attorney fails to act in a reasonable way that would have changed the outcome of the case.

Here, the attorney failed to arrive for a jury selection hearing, which has resulted in his client being taken back to jail and being subject to an increased bail amount. While some may question the logic of the judge who penalized a client for their attorney’s poor conduct, the fact remains that the attorney’s conduct was the direct cause of the client being deprived of his freedom once again while the case is pending.

The attorney must simply pay a fine in order to avoid a short jail sentence for being in contempt of court. He told the judge that he was late because he overslept.

Clients who have suffered from legal malpractice can pursue an action against their negligent attorneys for the economic harm and hardships that stemmed from the mishandling of their case.

Source: ABA Journal, “Judge jails lawyer and client over tardy arrival for jury selection,” Martha Neil, May 7, 2013.