Appeal from the Order Entered September 24, 1986, in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Criminal, at No. MC 86-092732.
Richard Sprague, Philadelphia, for appellant.
Rowley, Kelly and Watkins, JJ.
[ 365 Pa. Super. Page 171]
This case comes to us on appeal from the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County and involves the appeal of J. Shane Creamer, Esquire, from a finding by the trial court that he was in contempt of court due to his courtroom conduct in defending a client in a criminal jury trial. He was fined $500.00 for his conduct.
Appellant, Attorney Creamer, was defending one William G. Ison against charges of aggravated assault and related offenses arising from an incident in which one Vincent Regusters was alleged to be the victim. Ison and a co-defendant, Barry Hayes, were co-defendants charged with beating Regusters. At trial, Ison and Hayes, who were employed as security guards at a supermarket, maintained that Regusters was a shoplifter who they had apprehended as he was leaving the market. They claimed that Regusters started the altercation which resulted in his injuries by grabbing Hayes. Regusters claimed that he was handcuffed and beaten by the defendants and that he was not a shoplifter. As such, the outcome of the trial depended upon the credibility of Regusters.
At the trial, the appellant attacked the credibility of Regusters by attempting to show the jury that his trial testimony relative to the incident differed from statements he had made to the police. Appellant also attempted to discredit Regusters by demonstrating that he had an alleged
[ 365 Pa. Super. Page 172]
financial stake in the outcome of the trial because he had filed a civil suit against the defendants claiming damages. The finding of contempt arose from appellant's attempts to discredit Regusters and the trial court's rulings relative to those attempts.
The actual incident which resulted in the contempt ruling occurred during closing argument when appellant, alluding to evidence that he was foreclosed from presenting, said to the jury, "Did you realize that you know more, we know more about you than you know about these defendants. For some reason the judge would not permit." At that point an objection was interposed by the district attorney and sustained by the trial judge. A short time later appellant, in addressing the jury relative to their duty to search for the truth, said, "I tried to get the police reports into evidence." An objection was again interposed, a sidebar conference requested by the district attorney, and appellant found in contempt of court at the sidebar conference. An argument then ensued as to whether the jury could have overheard the trial court's statement holding appellant in contempt. Appellant insisted upon repeating the trial court's admonishments to him made at sidebar so as to preserve them for the record. The trial court stated that it was appellant, not the court, who called the jury's attention to the sidebar remarks. In any event, appellant was found in contempt and fined $500. He appeals from that ruling.
Appellant cites Canon 7 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which states that, "A lawyer should represent a client zealously within the bounds of the law." However, this Canon does not excuse contemptuous conduct on the part of the lawyer. The issue at hand is whether appellant's conduct during the jury trial constituted contempt of court.
Our Legislature, in defining contempt of court, has provided that:
The power of the several courts of this Commonwealth to issue attachments and to ...