O-Cho No No

Chad Ochocinco Johnson will spend the next 30 days in jail for slapping the backside of his lawyer after a short probation hearing in Florida. Broward County Circuit Judge Kathleen McHugh felt that the show of gratitude demonstrated that Chad was not taking the proceedings seriously. Is there a single trial lawyer in this country that believes Judge McHugh belongs on the bench? You bet! Former prosecutor Star Jones defended the sentence on the Today Show this morning. Sort of. Star does not take any hard positions (except where she can inject the race card into any news item) and sort of waffled. Yes, it was justified. No, it was too much. The judge was right. But, she crossed a line. Classic Star Jones. But, here is where she demonstrates a complete lack of legal acumen. Ocho was not showing disrespect. He was not mocking or making faces. He was not laughing or making gestures. He was not being disrespectful to the Court or the proceedings. He was thanking his lawyer for doing a “good job,” as he uttered simultaneously with the back-slap. And, why? Because seconds before, the Judge told him to thank his lawyer for doing a great job! If she even saw the slap, she did not find it disrespectful because she did not react for several moments. She only responded when several court officers found glee in the gesture and laughed. So, she is punishing Chad because her court officers (who she controls) showed disrespect by laughing out loud during a court proceeding. If he had shaken his lawyer’s hand, or tapped him on the back, there would be no story and no jail. But, he is a football player and a butt-slap is the legal equivalent of a hand shake. Everyone knows it.

Look at the Judge’s face when she imposes sentence. Her expression betrays hesitation. She feels like she should do something, but is obviously unsure whether Chad actually did anything wrong. And, she allows her emotions take control. She lashes out and does what every lawyer fears: she imposed an irrational, unfair, and arbitrary punishment. And then, pride kicks in and she won’t back down or admit her mistake.
Anyone who has spent anytime in a court room in the last 20 years (not you, Star) knows inherently that the judge was out of line and should be reversed and disciplined.

I am not defending Chad. He is accused of head-butting his wife and should have been in jail ab initio. He deserves no leniency or mercy. But, this Court made a determination that his crime did not warrant jail time. So, let’s review. Hitting your wife? No jail. Hitting your lawyer? 30 days! Great message.

Oh wait. This is Florida. The Iranian justice system makes more sense. I just realized this blog has had more inadvertent entries on Floridian jurisprudence than any other topic. (See, http://ariweisbrot.com/2011/07/01/i-think-youve-had-enough-2/ AND http://ariweisbrot.com/2011/07/05/evidence-we-dont-need-no-stinkin-evidence/

If I lived in Florida, I would not rest until Judge McHugh was reassigned to traffic court. Heck, give me a call Ocho, I will handle your appeal for free.

* * *
My last piece was read in 35 countries (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Hungary, Croatia, etc.) I would love to hear from those readers. Shoot me an email at ariweisbrot.com!

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About aweisbrot

Ari is a partner in the Litigation Department of an historic and renowned law firm located in New York. He has been featured on CBS Radio’s Wall Street Journal Report, quoted in legal and non-legal periodicals, and has been recognized as a “SuperLawyer” in New Jersey and a "Top Ten Lawyer to Watch" in New York. Mr. Weisbrot is a true “client’s lawyer,” representing a diverse range of clients from among the largest retailers in the United States to smaller local businesses to religious and charitable organizations. Ari was appointed by Supreme Court of the State of New Jersey to a three-year term of service on the Committee on Character. The Committee determines the fitness to practice law of each candidate for admission to the Bar of the State. Mr. Weisbrot also continues to serve on the District Ethics Committee (IIB - Bergen County), which operates under the auspices of the New Jersey State Office of Attorney Ethics. Mr. Weisbrot has been awarded an 'AV' rating for his professionalism and the quality of his legal work from Martindale-Hubbell, the premier directory of legal professionals, and has been selected by his peers as a Super Lawyer. In addition, Mr. Weisbrot has written several articles on commercial litigation, which have been published in the New Jersey Law Journal and the Metropolitan Corporate Counsel. A Former New York City prosecutor, Mr. Weisbrot is a graduate of Fordham University School of Law, where he was a member of the Urban Law Journal and a featured columnist in the Law School newspaper
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8 Responses to O-Cho No No

  1. Ken Goffstein says:

    I disagree completely. Ochostupo did in fact “not take things seriously” and showed a complete lack of dignity in the court room. Focusing in on the ‘rear end slapping’ only and leaving all other facts of his history or proceedings out, he deserves what he got. It’s time two bit punks like him take responsibility for their actions!

    • aweisbrot says:

      No, Ken. It was ONLY the read-end slapping that got him jail time. So, that is ALL you need to focus on. I agree that “all the other facts and history” may have warranted a harsher outcome, but the fact is, it didn’t.

  2. Isaac says:

    ari- i am not a lawyer and dont play one on tv but my question to you is would any jail sentence ever be issued to any other person doing the same thing in any other court room? meaning, if i am in teaneck traffic court to fight “yawning at a red light” and my lawyer gets said violation removed, and i slapped his backside, could judge james young throw me in the bergen county slammer for a day or 30 days? if the answer is yes, then i guess judge “it’s that time of the month” had a right to do so and chad will spend the next 30 days signing autographs behind bars. but if there is no legal ground to put a guy in the slammer for butt-fumbling then its the judge who should be on the unemployment lines this moring. your thoughts and legal insight please?

  3. Isaac says:

    so that brings up a bigger question- if something is legal, then how is it “fair” fo you, me or tim tebow to “judge” the judge on what is right? isnt that the very reason a judge gets to decided and we dont leave a sentence to a random guy walking the street? i will throw the ball back to you and ask if you think it is “right” if murders get off on technicalities or if a client of yours wins a case based on some legal manuvering even though they could be dead wrong in that case?

    • aweisbrot says:

      If a guy jumps the subway turnstile in NY city, the judge COULD give him one year in jail. It would be legal. BUt it would be wrong and an abuse of power. And, no. She had the power to sentence him to 30 days in jail. But, not for slapping his lawyer.

  4. Isaac says:

    understood but that begs the question about what is an abuse of power? i have had the honor of sitting in judge young’s courtroom in teaneck many a time, and he says before each session that “based on your charge, if found guilty, there is a maximum penalty i can impose and while i may do that, i may also give you a lighter penalty”. so if one jumps the turnstiles in NYC and gets a 30 days in jail, is that an abuse of power or a judge being lenient? as a lawyer, what defines fair vs wrong or abuse in your eyes?

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