A Norfolk general district judge has fined a prosecutor $250 for making lawyers, police officers and defendants wait while she handled a matter in circuit court.
The prosecutor, assistant commonwealth’s attorney Catherine M. Paxson, has filed an appeal of the criminal contempt conviction imposed Jan. 7 by Judge S. Clark Daugherty.
Paxson told the judge she “double-booked” that day by scheduling matters in circuit court at the same time she had preliminary hearings scheduled in the district court, according to the judge’s findings posted by The Virginian-Pilot.
Paxson had left word with the district clerk that she had a matter to attend to in circuit court. In her absence, the judge handled matters that did not require her presence, Daugherty said.
By 10 a.m., however, six defendants were waiting for preliminary hearings along with defense attorneys, police officers and about 15 other people, the judge said.
Paxson arrived at 10:20, and explained her delay.
Paxson apologized, according to the judge, who also said Paxson had never previously inconvenienced the court. After the delay, Paxson handled the six preliminary hearings “in her usual highly professional manner,” Daugherty wrote in his certificate of conviction.
With her appeal now filed in circuit court, Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney Earle C. Mobley has been appointed as special prosecutor, the paper said. A hearing is set for Feb. 19, according to online court records.
In a 2009 opinion, the Supreme Court of Virginia reversed criminal contempt convictions for two attorneys who excused clients from scheduled trials without court approval based on agreements for continuances. The high court said the evidence failed to establish the lawyers had intended to obstruct or interrupt the administration of justice.