Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert blog which will discuss the short but interesting recent South Carolina Supreme Court opinion issuing a reprimand to a lawyer who, while acting as a magistrate, told a defendant that he would “beat” his “a–” if the defendant called him a liar. The opinion is In the Matter of Greenwood County Magistrate Walter Rutledge Martin, SC Appellate Case No. 2012-213049 (November 7, 2012). The opinion is here: https://www.judicial.state.sc.us/opinions/HTMLFiles/SC/27183.pdf.
According to the opinion, the lawyer was presiding over a bond court on March 7, 2012 and one of the defendants questioned the bond he had set. The lawyer “became upset with the defendant” and asked him whether he was calling him a liar. When the defendant responded, “(n)o, I’m not going anywhere,” the lawyer said, “(o)kay. Because I’ll beat your a– if you call me a liar.”
The lawyer apparently immediately apologized to the defendant. During the Bar proceedings, the lawyer said that he “regretted the incident” and, in mitigation, he stated that the evening before the incident his disabled three-year-old son awoke him at 2:00 am and he was unable to go back to sleep for the rest of the night. The lawyer also said that his comment to the defendant was atypical of his courtroom demeanor and submitted a 2009 letter from the South Carolina Bar’s Judicial Qualifications Committee which found him well qualified in the area of judicial temperament. The South Carolina Supreme Court approved the agreement between the lawyer and the Bar and issued the agreed upon public reprimand.
Bottom line: Geez…think before you speak, especially if you are a magistrate presiding over cases and never say that you will beat a defendant’s a–.
Be careful out there!
|Disclaimer: this e-mail does not contain any legal advice and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire
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