I was held in contempt by two different judges during my illustrious career as a defense attorney.
I laughed when one of my favorite judges lifted the citation and I was able to practice in front of him for many years after. Judge James Lineberger was his name. A former prosecutor, defense lawyer and a battle-field commissioned captain in the army.
I was representing a Mafia -wannabe from South Philly who was held in contempt for his antics at a jury trial in another courtroom. He didn’t like his court-appointed lawyer. He had to buy him a new pair of frames for his glasses he came to court with white tape holding them together. What got him the contempt ruling was when the defendant up-ended the defense table in full view of the jury when he saw his lawyer had ripped the seat of his pants and his white undies were in clear view of the jury.
The defendant didn’t have a leg to stand on when I interviewed him in the lock-up. But I was then approached by this drop-dead gorgeous blonde — a gun mall? — Who wanted me to help her loser boyfriend?
I argued vigorously and actually raised my voice to the judge with whom she was making goo-goo eyes at. He ordered to sheriffs to take me away stating “Take this short lawyer out of here!”
I was never more humiliated in my life. I barely reach 5 feet and six inches and had to look up to too many people in my lifetime. The name Contos also means “short” in some language while my father who was 5-fit-10 inches was named Contoveros, which means “Singer of Truth.'” until Ellis Island changed it.
A supervisor from my office – the Defender Association of Philadelphia brought the bar of the court and when I saw the judge smile at me, I quipped “I don’t want no PD, I want a real lawyer.”
The judge smiled and lifted the contempt citation and we worked smoothly ever after.
My other contempt still haunts me years after the judge’s ruling and that will be revealed next.