Monday, June 10, 2013

Don't be a court jester!

Chad Johnson (the football player formerly known as "Ochocinco") has not been relevant as a professional athlete for some time, but in this video clip, he becomes a lesson in court decorum to all court litigants, criminal and civil.

Don't slap your lawyer on the butt to celebrate a victory!

Put more simply, show some sense, and show some respect for the courtroom setting.  It is a serious place where serious matters are discussed and resolved, including Mr. Johnson's freedom. Here, his lack of respect caused Broward County Circuit Judge Kathleen "Katie" McHugh to reject the plea bargain made by the prosecution and defense lawyers which would have kept the defendant out of jail.  She is a no-nonsense judge with 18 years under her belt as an experienced prosecutor.

Watch what happens.

What did you just see?  You watched a fellow who has made a career out of excessive celebration on the football field inject a bit of showmanship in his own criminal hearing. And the court took deep offense. The court then exercised it's discretion to reject a negotiated plea agreement.

A judge in criminal matters is not obligated to accept a plea bargain.  The parties negotiations are nothing more than a suggestion to the court.  The judge may accept or reject the deal. She also had the option to honor the plea agreement and hold Mr. Johnson in contempt, or constructive civil contempt. She chose the harshest route and sent Mr. Johnson to jail. Whether Katie McHugh's conduct survives further challenge can be debated, but isn't the more important thing to stay out of jail, in the first instance?

Thanks, Mr. Johnson, for being a teacher.

Epilogue:  Judge McHugh releases Mr. Johnson after seven days in the slammer, but extends his probation by three months.