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Another Griffith contempt citation upheld

Same judge, different lawyer, still contempt.

The Virginia Court of Appeals today upheld a second contempt citation by former Norfolk Circuit Judge Charles D. Griffith Jr. for a lawyer who assumed that a continuance would be granted as a matter of course.

The unpublished opinion, Zedd v. Commonwealth, was hardly surprising in light of Singleton v. Commonwealth, a published opinion in October with similar facts.

In Singleton, a defense attorney and a prosecutor agreed to a continuance, and the attorney excused his client and did not appear himself when the case was called. Griffith found him in contempt of court and fined him $250.

In Zedd, the defense attorney called the prosecutor to ask for a continuance in the de novo appeal of a reckless driving case. The prosecutor agreed because the trooper could not appear anyway because of personal reasons.

The defense attorney appeared on the scheduled date but had told his client that he did not need to appear. Griffith found him in contempt for doing so.The Zedd panel said Singleton controlled the result. That Zedd showed up on the trial date, while neither the attorney nor the client was present in Singleton, is “a distinction without a difference,” the panel said.

The affirmance nothwithstanding, the contempt citations were the kinds of rulings that prompted grumbling about Griffith and contributed to the refusal of the General Assembly in January to reappoint him to a second eight-year term.

By Alan Cooper

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