Here’s a story that’s been bothering me recently: As our buddies at Virginia Lawyers Weekly reported, the Supreme Court of Virginia has issued a show cause order to a Winchester attorney, directing him to explain a comment that he made on the record.
The lawyer, William Crane, represented a sexually violent predator in a case involving two appeals. Finding himself back in front of the trial court, he tried to explain the Supreme Court’s treatment of an appellate issue.
This exchange ensued:
MR CRANE: The Court refused to consider the Fifth Amendment issue. They said there was enough besides that to go ahead an approve the findings.
THE COURT: They didn’t want to touch it?
MR. CRANE: Well, they just stuffed it. They didn’t have the guts to handle it.
As luck would have it, the transcript wound up in the record for a subsequent appeal. The Supreme Court evidently read the transcript and was not amused. Citing the Rules of Professional Conduct, it directed Crane to appear on September 16 to explain whether his comment demonstrates “a patent disregard for the Justices of this Court.”
Virginia Lawyer’s Weekly reports that this appears to be the third show cause order issued since 1987 for a lawyer’s behavior toward the Court. The first involved a lawyer who approached a sitting justice at a social function and told him, “I’m still pissed off at you, you a-hole.”
The second was the Taboada v. Daly Seven, 272 Va. 211, 636 S.E.2d 889 (2006) debacle, where a lawyer signed and filed a petition for rehearing, which employed “intemperate language” to “ridicule and deride the Court” and “express displeasure” with its opinion.
That’s putting in diplomatically. Here’s an excerpt from Taboada:
[The lawyer] made numerous assertions in the petition for rehearing regarding this Court’s opinion. [He] described this Court’s opinion as “irrational and discriminatory” and “irrational at its core.” He wrote that the Court’s opinion makes “an incredible assertion” and “mischaracterizes its prior case law.” [The lawyer] stated: “George Orwell’s fertile imagination could not supply a clearer distortion of the plain meaning of language to reach such an absurd result.” [He] argued in the petition that this Court’s opinion “demonstrates so graphically the absence of logic and common sense.” … [The lawyer] also included the following statement in the petition: “[I]f you attack the King, kill the King; otherwise, the King will kill you.”