Monday, January 28, 2008

The Perils of In-Court Reading Material

I don't know about most lawyers, but I occasionally take reading material with me when I go to court, if I think I might be waiting for a while. If that happens, I'll usually grab a case, transcript, or law review article that I'm reading and take it with me. I try and keep it somewhat relevant to the job. My lone attempt at contraband occurred when I tried to take a newspaper with me into the Fourth Circuit on an oral argument day (I wasn't arguing - I'd gone the day before). That's not allowed, for reasons that were not provided to me.

Via Concurring Opinions, however, I see that not everyone takes the law with them when they need some in court reading material:

A Rowan County District Court judge held a local attorney in contempt Wednesday for reading a men's magazine during a court session, according to a contempt order filed in the Rowan County Clerk of Court's Office.

Judge Kevin Eddinger found Salisbury attorney Todd Paris in contempt after he saw him reading a Maxim magazine with 'a female topless model' on the cover, according to the order.

When Eddinger gave Paris a chance to respond he apologized and 'stated in his view the magazine was not pornography, was available at local stores and that he did not intend contempt,' the order said.
Apparently Eddinger isn't aware of all those obscenity cases talking about how just because something is for sale locally doesn't mean that it meets the relevant "community standards." But I am a little confused, 'cause in my experience (browsing on the Krogers newsstand, mind you) Maxim doesn't actually have "topless" pics, just scantily clad one. That raises the question of whether (a) the judge needs his eyes checked or (2) Paris was reading something a little more hard core.

That being said, this seems like a huge overreaction by the judge. It doesn't sound like there was a crowd gathered around Paris and his quasi smut book. When called the bench, the judge wouldn't allow him to just throw it away. However, it doesn't look like Paris exactly covered himself in glory once called on the carpet:
When the judge returned to the bench, Paris tried again to justify having the magazine in court, saying the magazine belonged to his girlfriend and asking Eddinger to look at the mailing label.

Paris also said he has taken similar magazines into courtrooms in other counties and never had a problem.

At some point, Paris read some of the captions under the pictures, which the officer described as explicit.

The officer said many people in the courtroom couldn't understand what was going on.

Eddinger then showed the magazine from the bench, with the crowd erupting in laughter.
That's classy - "my girlfriend did it!" Maybe the contempt is justified if he's just a schmuck.

1 comment:

jedijawa said...

That's hilarious ... sort of.