Goldberg's civil rights were violated in the contempt hearing, his lawyer says.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A jail term imposed on Richard Goldberg for contempt of court was illegal and should be thrown out, his lawyer says.
Atty. Charles Richards filed documents this week in the 7th District Court of Appeals asking for the action.
Goldberg, 57, of Liberty, was slapped with a 21-month jail sentence in May 2000 by Judge Timothy P. Maloney of Mahoning County Probate Court. It's to be served in the county jail immediately after Goldberg finishes a 57-month federal prison sentence for bilking clients out of millions of dollars from lawsuit settlements.
Goldberg is a former medical malpractice attorney.
The judge held several hearings in probate court related to four cases in which Goldberg kept a total of $1.2 million that should have been paid to his clients, and failed to account for an additional $20,000 in attorney fees.
In written opinions, Judge Maloney said those acts constituted a fraud upon the court and were grounds for criminal contempt. He sentenced Goldberg to six months in jail for three of the cases and three months for the fourth. They are to be served consecutively.
Lawyer's argument: Richards argued in court documents that Goldberg was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, that his conduct did not constitute direct contempt of court and that it's unconstitutional to imprison someone for failure to pay a civil debt.
He also said Goldberg's right to due process was violated because Judge Maloney did not allow witnesses against Goldberg to be cross-examined during hearings.
"Where a court conducts a hearing without allowing a party the right to cross-examination, the court has essentially failed to conduct a hearing at all," he said.
Richards' court filing said that the finding of contempt and the subsequent jail sentence is "a travesty of justice, ordered by a court in which the end justifies the means and basic fairness is a stranger."
Judge Maloney could not be reached to comment.