Judge Has Unprepared Lawyer Arrested

An Ohio judge angered state and national defense lawyers after he had a public defender arrested for being unprepared for trial.

Portage County Judge John Plough had assistant public defender Brian Jones arrested for contempt of court last week after Jones refused to begin a misdemeanor assault trial because he said he was unprepared. Jones was assigned to the case one day earlier.

Jones, who started working as a public defender earlier this year, was held for five hours in the local jail before being released on bail, said Ian Friedman, a lawyer with the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

A hearing on the contempt charge, to be held before Plough, is scheduled for Friday. Jones' attorneys have asked Plough to remove himself from the case, saying he cannot be impartial.

Plough did not return calls for comment Monday.

Plough's ruling prompted an outcry from defense lawyers, both in Ohio and across the country. Carmen Hernandez, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said in a statement that defense lawyers have an ethical obligation not to start trial if they are not prepared.

"Asking a lawyer to go to trial without preparation is like asking a doctor to perform surgery before diagnosing the patient," she said.

The Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers has also intervened.

"The defense bar has been outraged," said Friedman. "Anyone who's heard of this matter has been outraged."

This is not the first time that Plough has come under fire. Earlier this year he reportedly had another public defender arrested for refusing to go forward with a trial, though in a May interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer Plough denied that he had the first lawyer arrested.

In May, Portage County Judge Laurie Pittman complained about Plough to the Ohio Supreme Court's Office of Disciplinary Counsel, saying he intimidated defendants who acted as their own lawyers, according to the Plain Dealer. She said Plough was "making a mockery of justice," according to a letter cited by the Plain Dealer.

Pittman and the Office of Disciplinary Counsel declined to comment. The office has not opened an official investigation into Plough.

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