The D.C. Court of Appeals refused again yesterday to disturb a criminal contempt order against controversial lawyer and former city judge Harry T. Alexander.
The attorney was slapped with a $150 fine or five days in jail by a Superior Court judge two years ago after he showed up late several times to represent a client in a drunk-driving trial.
The Appeals Court rejected Alexander's bid for reconsideration yesterday, ruling again on the technicality that he had missed a deadline for filing his appeal.
Judge Gladys Kessler originally ordered Alexander held in contempt on May 16, 1979, after he came into court a half-hour late, the last time he was tardy during the five-day trial. On previous occasions, Alexander had been late by a few minutes.
Alexander said in a telephone interview last night that it is "ironic at the very least" that his client in the drunk-driving case was acquitted, and that one of the jurors in the case was more than an hour late because of car trouble the same day Alexander was a half-hour late. Alexander said he would appeal the latest ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Kessler rejected Alexander's explanation for being late (that he had emergency business elsewhere in the courthouse) and bluntly told him:
"The court finds you in contempt of court. It is not the first time you have been late. . . . It exhibits the utmost rudeness and disrespect for all involved."
Alexander, a flamboyant dresser who served for 10 years as a trial judge in Superior Court, argued that he had had to file an emergency motion on behalf of another client in the landlord and tenant branch of the court.
He said he knew he was due in Kessler's courtroom at 9:15 a.m. that day, but when he found her courtroom door locked at 9:00, he rushed to the landlord and tenant branch. Kessler's law clerk found Alexander there later and brought him to Kessler's chambers at about 9:45 a.m.
Alexander acknowledged in his appeal that his conduct "may have been to some degree irritating to the court . . . but did not rise to the level of willful or intentional behavior" constitution contempt.