This is beyond ridiculous. This lawyer did nothing wrong. He did nothing unethical or illegal – and yet this Judge held him in contempt and threw him in jail – simply for advising his client of his Fifth Amendment rights. Beyond disappointing.
HUDSONVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) – A lawyer who told his client that he didn’t have to answer a Hudsonville District Court judge’s question was held in contempt of court last week — and put behind bars.
Scott Millard, an attorney with Miel and Carr law firm, was defending a client before Judge Kenneth Post — a judge who has made the news before for what many said was his unreasonable stance on minors in possession of alcohol.
While many who are convicted of such a crime are allowed to go through programs to help them get it off their record, Post wouldn’t allow it. He is entitled to that discretion as a judge.
It was a minor in possession case that brought Millard to Post’s courtroom for the first time.
Post asked Millard’s client a question that Millard said the client had a right not to answer. Millard advised his client to exercise his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.
“The initial question was whether my client would be able to take a drug test and my client elected to stand mute to that question,” Millard told 24 Hour News 8 on Monday. “The Fifth Amendment doesn’t require individuals to be forced to make statements against their own interests.”
Then, Millard said, Post held him in contempt of court and threw him in jail.
“It was a surprising situation to say the least,” said Millard.
Millard was ordered to jail for the weekend. An emergency motion was filed by his attorney and a higher circuit court judge overturned the ruling. Millard was released after three hours in custody.
Now, he’s fighting a misdemeanor. If Millard is convicted of this misdemeanor, he risks losing his license to practice law.
But Millard said he wouldn’t do anything different for his client.
Cooley Law professor Curt Benson said he’s never known a judge to hold any attorney in contempt of court, considering how serious of an offense it is.
Benson said that judges do have the discretion to determine contempt, but that judges must use that power judiciously.
If, for example, Millard’s behavior had been “disrespectful to the court or consternatious,” as Millard’s attorney said at his appeal, the judge might have been in the right.
But Benson said that if the story happened the way that Millard said, the attorney was in the right.
“It’s pretty elementary,” Benson explained. “You don’t have to incriminate yourself.”
24 Hour News 8 attempted to speak with Judge Post on Monday. A clerk told our crew that Post wouldn’t be on the bench until Tuesday, but he was actually scheduled to have a brief hearing with attorneys not involved with this case.
The clerk apologized and allowed 24 Hour News 8 to go in, but the judge was back in his chambers by then an not willing to talk. He also avoided 24 Hour News 8 crews as they waited for him after work.