Crime

Grays Harbor judge ordered Tacoma lawyer jailed for failing to appear in court, records say

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A Grays Harbor County judge had a Tacoma attorney jailed recently for failing to appear in court, according to court and jail records.

Superior Court Judge David L. Edwards found lawyer Myles Johnson in contempt of court Nov. 29 in a case where Johnson was representing someone charged with third-degree assault.

The order reads: “This court finds that he is in contempt of court for willfully failing to appear in court on November 27, 2018, as directed by notice from the court dated November 16, 2018.”

It continues: “The court previously imposed a sanction of $500 for his failure to appear in court as ordered on an earlier date. Mr. Johnson has a history of failing to appear in court in this case. The court imposes a sanction of two days of incarceration in the Grays Harbor County Jail to be served immediately.”

Edwards did not return a call from The News Tribune about the matter.

Attorney John Meske, who said he will be representing Johnson, gave The News Tribune this account of what happened:

There had been a problem with the defendant’s plea, the court set a new hearing, and notice of that hearing, addressed to “Michael Johnson” was put in the mail of the wrong attorney at the shared office space where Johnson works.

The hearing had already passed when attorneys in the office realized what happened, and a warrant was issued for the arrest of Johnson’s client for missing the hearing.

Johnson was in trial in Seattle when he learned his client had been arrested.

Johnson’s partner, John Cyr, happened to be in Grays Harbor County and stopped by the court Nov. 27 to straighten things out.

Judge Edwards became upset as Cyr explained what happened and said he didn’t want to hear anything further.

Cyr asked when they could have a hearing to get the client out of jail, and Edwards found Cyr in contempt, jailed him for a couple hours and told him Johnson needed to be in court two days later, Meske said.

The court record of Johnson’s interaction with the judge gives this account:

“Court asked Mr. Johnson to explain his absence at the last couple court dates. Mr. Johnson responded. Court asked Mr. Johnson if he was apologetic at all. Mr. Johnson responded as to his reasons why things happened. Court listened to Mr. Johnson, and found Mr. Johnson in contempt; Mr. Johnson was taken into custody and was ordered to serve 2 days in the county jail.”

Records show Johnson was booked into Grays Harbor County Jail at 11:30 a.m. Nov. 29, and released at 5:55 a.m. Dec. 1.

Meske said they’re still deciding what actions would be appropriate, but that he expects to file a complaint with the state’s Commission on Judicial Conduct.

He argued the court violated the constitutional rights of Johnson, Cyr and the defendant to be free from unlawful confinement.

He added: “If your attorney is fearful of being thrown in jail, it’s not good for the right to counsel, your constitutional right to be represented by counsel.”

Jennifer Olegario, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Bar Association, told The News Tribune association officials could not recall any grievances or inquiries about attorneys arrested for contempt for failing to appear.

The bar gets inquiries about attorneys failing to appear, but an arrest for contempt appears uncommon in such cases, Olegario said.

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