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Lawyers get punched in court: A new meaning to criminal defense?


Lawyers can be notorious sometimes, but maybe even more notorious are the hundreds of lawyer jokes that surround the profession.  For example:  What’s the difference between a lawyer and a boxing referee?  A boxing referee doesn’t get paid more for a longer fight.

Ok, enough with the punch lines.  But seriously, though, what’s the difference between a lawyer and a boxer?  Nothing apparently, if you ask Pennsylvania lawyer William Bowe, who was punched in court by his client a few weeks ago.  The criminal defense attorney received a box to the ears from his client Eric Floyd, who was on trial for murder and had previously requested to fire Bowe.

It appears that this is nothing new for attorney Bowe.  He also had his lights knocked out six months ago by his client Eric Arms after a jury convicted him of murder.  Ouch.

And it also looks like the entire lawyering profession is getting used to punchy criminal clients.  Consider Connecticut public defender Michael Isko, whose client also punched him in the face before a jury in 2006.  His client was not in handcuffs because he had a cast on his right arm- the same one he jabbed Isko with.  Double ouch.

Or how about attorney Donald Oda, who received lacerations after his client punched him in the eye?  Hopefully he had a good cut-man in his corner.  And then there’s Kentucky public defender Doug Crickmer, whose black eye from a client sucker-punch can be seen here (or the video here).  The list (or the card) goes on and on, really.

So, what kinds of crimes will a defendant be charged with for punching their lawyer in court?  First, the defendant will be held in contempt of court, especially if the punching happened in front of a judge or a jury for everyone to see.  This means a fine and/or jail time.  And then they’ll probably have to face separate charges for the crimes of assault and battery.  This is in addition to whatever charges they are already in court for.

Surprisingly (or not), in the majority of the lawyer-punching incidents we’ve seen, the attorney is gracious enough not to press charges.  This is probably because most of these punch-out cases involve a life sentence for a serious felony, such as murder.  Moreover, many of the attorneys’ clients are under extreme pressure and frustration due to their situation.  Understandably, the defendant already has a lot on their plate.

According to professional conduct rules, defendants who are being charged in a criminal case have the right a new lawyer if they feel that they have received “ineffective assistance of counsel”.  This is what most of the clients claimed before they punched their lawyers.  Maybe all the flying fists will help lawyers think twice about rendering sub-par service to a client.  It looks like the American Bar Association has found a new malpractice deterrent.

In my opinion one good thing about this new phenomenon is, at least it’s not the other way around – you know, lawyers punching their clients.  That would only lead to more horrendous lawyer jokes.  And besides not pressing charges, several attorney-victims like Doug Crickmer have gone out of their way to formally forgive their clients.  At least the profession has maintained some amount of dignity in that regard.

Lawyers who are interested in learning how to take a punch or toughen up a glass jaw might want to find some training tips at the Lawyer-boxer’s blog.  In the meantime we won’t be surprised if someone slips a ringside bell beneath the judge’s gavel.


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