The lawyer's fine was reduced from $500 to $1.
WARREN -- The 7th District Court of Appeals has ruled that a Warren lawyer was in contempt of Girard Municipal Court but that the fine he was ordered to pay was excessive.
The appellate court, in an opinion released Monday, ruled that Atty. Patrick Donlin's fine be reduced from $500 to $1 for being held in contempt by Judge Michael Bernard.
The case stems from a Feb. 17, 2000, trial before Judge Bernard in which Donlin represented Wayne W. Cawley on a traffic violation.
Although the charge was dismissed against Cawley at the request of the prosecutor, Donlin was held in contempt after he would not allow his client to answer the judge's question of "what happened" in leading to the citation.
Court opinion: According to the appellate court opinion, Donlin would not allow Cawley to answer the judge's questions because it would lead to his client's self-incrimination.
Donlin asserted that he was protecting his client's rights. If he failed to object to the judge's questions, he charged, he wouldn't have represented his client properly.
Appeals Judge Diane V. Grendell wrote that Donlin's conduct "tended to embarrass the court's performance of its functions in the administration of justice."
Although Donlin's conduct was contemptuous, Judge Grendell wrote, he had legitimate concerns in preventing his client from incriminating himself.