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Contempt citation upheld

A defense attorney has a trial date for a client charged with drunken driving. The prosecutor agrees to a continuance, and the lawyers endorse a proposed order.

The defense attorney advises his client that he does not have to appear in court on the date and doesn’t show up himself. That probably isn’t much of a problem in most courts.

In front of former Norfolk Circuit Judge Charles D. Griffith Jr. last year, it was contempt of court. Griffith fined attorney Kenneth L. Singleton $250.

Today, the Virginia Court of Appeals rejected Singleton’s contention that he should not have been convicted because he lacked any contemptuous intent.

Judges have a responsibility to control their docket, Judge D. Arthur Kelsey wrote for the court of appeals panel in Singleton v. Commonwealth. “By not showing up for trial and advising his client to do the same, Singleton undermined the trial court’s authority in a manner warranting the sanction of contempt of court,” Kelsey said.

On the other hand, the contempt citation was the kind of ruling 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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