A group of lawyers who represent poor people in D.C. Superior Court yesterday expressed their support of a fellow attorney sentenced to time in jail, and criticized the judge who meted out the sentence.
In a resolution adopted unanimously, 55 members of the 120-member Superior Court Trial Lawyers Association voted to "strongly condemn" Judge Tim Murphy for sentencing attorney Stephen Millstein Wednesday to spend time in jail after the lawyer arrived late in court.
Murphy sentenced Millstein to serve four weekends at the D.C. Jail after the attorney came to court more than an hour after a case in which he represented a defendant had been called for trial. Millstein had been late for the same case several times before, the judge said later.
"We don't want to see Millstein go to jail," said Wallace E. Shipp Jr., vice presidient of the association. "We think it would set a dangerous precedent for a lawyer to be sent to jail -- treated like a criminal -- because he violated one judge's rule. Extreme punishment in this case is in no way warranted."
Murphy told Millstein in court Wednesday that he was holding him in contempt of court and sending him to jail because the lawyer had repeatedly made late court appearances.
On one occasion recently, Murphy said he fined the attorney $250 for being late.
"I have publicly warned you and you still continue to fail to appear before this court" Murphy told Millstein. "In my view, you should be disbarred. You are unfit to practice law."
Millstein, 41, who has practiced law in Superior Court for 12 years, said yesterday that he would appeal Murphy's action.