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Supreme Court hears contempt cases

At least three justices of the Supreme Court of Virginia appeared skeptical today that two attorneys had demonstrated an intent to obstruct or interrupt justice when they directed their clients not to appear for trial of a misdemeanor appeal after prosecutors had agreed to a continuance. Former Norfolk Circuit Judge Charles D. Griffith Jr. found that they had and convicted them of summary contempt.

The cases of Kenneth L. Singleton and Gordon Zedd differed somewhat, but the Supreme Court considered them close enough that they were heard together. Singleton was not in court on the trial date and told his client he did not need to appear. Zedd was in court but had excused his client.
In both cases, prosecutors had told the defense they weren’t prepared for trial and had agreed to a continuance beforehand.

Charles B. Lustig, who represented Zedd and Singleton, contended that the failure to cite the prosecutors for contempt as well showed the arbitrariness of the conviction of his clients.
Senior Assistant Attorney Robert H. Anderson countered that the prosecutors ran the risk of having their cases dismissed when they excused their witnesses while Griffith could not have convicted the defendants in their absence.

The court is expected to decide the case by Nov. 6.
By Alan Cooper

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