Two of Edward Bennett Williams' cardinal rules for criminal defense lawyers are: 1) Get the money up front; and 2) If anyone goes to jail make sure its the client, not the lawyer.
Defense attorney Kenneth M. Robinson admits he violated the first rule.
And his trial last week in U.S. District Court on contempt charges was to determine whether he violated the second rule.
Robinson's client, charged with dealing drugs, and videotaped making a buy from an undercover agent, walked out a free man after a lengthy trial last fall.
However, presiding Judge Joyce Hens Green cited Robinson for, among other things, refusing to comply with direct orders from the court during the trial and for telling the jury that sentences Green imposed before the trial on two prosecution witnesses were "ridiculous" and an "embarrassment."
He faces up to six months in jail and a $500 fine if Judge Thomas A. Flannery, who is presiding over the nonjury contempt trial, finds him guilty of the charges.
Veteran courthouse watchers say they have never seen anything quite like Robinson's trial. Lawyers are often held in contempt in D.C. Superior Court and occasionally in the federal court, but almost always for being late or not showing up for a court appearance, not for remarks made during a trial.
And no one can remember a trial so emotional. Robinson, who is representing himself, choked up during his opening argument.
And Green, who testified before Flannery for two days, also began to cry and asked for a moment to compose herself, according to several spectators, when Robinson, during cross-examination, asked her if she had "lost any sleep" over bringing the charges.
What makes the trial even more unusual is that Robinson's defense is, in part, that Green was predisposed against him because she didn't like him, and because he and Green's husband, Samuel, an attorney in private practice, had had an argument when they opposed each other in a divorce case in Montgomery County.
That is a contention Green heatedly denied. She told Flannery that Robinson "shrieked at me," and was "snarling, angry and disdainful in open court." She said the narcotics case was a "spectacle" because of Robinson's courtroom antics.
Robinson told Flannery he "may have been disrespectful" during the trial, but not contemptuous. "I swear to God, I was not trying to embarrass Green ," he said.
Flannery interrupted, citing Robinson's remark that Green's sentencing of the government witnesses was "ridiculous."
"But how can you say that in front of a judge?" Flannery asked.
"I was rolling, your honor," Robinson said, pointing out that the remarks were made in the heat of closing argument. Robinson said he could see now why Green objected to that characterization. "I know I'm in trouble," Robinson said. "I apologized [to Green], and I apologize again."
The trial is expected to conclude tomorrow, and Flannery has indicated he will issue a ruling then. Even if Robinson is found guilty, it is unlikely, most observers feel, that Flannery would sentence Robinson to serve much, if any, time in jail. And the fine will not break Robinson's pocketbook.
The only real trouble for Robinson might come from the D.C. Bar disciplinary committee.
But a spokesman there has said that while Robinson could be disciplined if he were held in contempt, it was unlikely that he would be disbarred.