Contempt in the face of the court – In re Lynch

Does a failure to appear by an attorney before a judge due to a scheduling conflict constitute a contempt in the face of the court under Rule 1:10-1? Moreover, may such conduct be punished summarily, without notice or an opportunity to be heard and in the absence of the attorney subject to the contempt?

These were the issues addressed by the Appellate Division earlier today when the Court released In re Lynch. The case involves summary contempt sanctions against two attorneys who failed to appear before a particular trial judge due to conflicts in their schedules and requirements that they appear before other judges in the same court house. The contempt sanctions were imposed in the absence of the attorneys and with a complete disregard for the substantive and procedural requirements of the Rules of Court.

It should be noted that this opinion provides an excellent review of the law of contempt within the context of the Court Rules. It was written by the leading expert in the state on these Rules, Judge Pressler and may well be one of her last published opinions. Note her concluding paragraph where she reminds her readers that judges and attorneys are not adversaries and should work together to accomplish their mutual goal of advancing justice.

Download a copy of In re Lynch

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