STANTON — A local attorney fresh off passing his bar exam was thrown into jail by a judge for invoking his client’s right to the Fifth Amendment.
Scott Millard, 29, is the newest attorney at Miel & Carr in downtown Stanton, where he works alongside Joshua Blanchard, Keeley Heath and Duane Carr.
Millard appeared in Ottawa County’s 58th District Court in Hudsonville last Friday to represent a client charged as a minor in possession of alcohol.
While discussing bond conditions, Judge Kenneth Post inquired whether Millard’s client would pass a drug test. Millard advised his client to assert his right to the Fifth Amendment — the right not to make incriminating statements about himself. The judge believed Millard was obstructing the proceedings, according to a transcript of the courtroom exchange.
The exchange quickly led to something more serious.
“It felt like it was moving very quickly, but at the same time it felt like time was standing still,” Millard said.
The judge ordered Millard to jail. The attorney was brought to a holding cell, his hands were cuffed behind his back and he was placed in a county vehicle.
The vehicle began to transport Millard to jail, when the driver received a call to turn around and return to the courthouse. Millard was again brought before the judge.
“The judge asked if I wanted to spend the weekend in jail,” Millard said. “I said, ‘No.’ The judge asked if I would instruct my client to answer the questions. I said, ‘Yes, I will instruct my client to answer your questions according to the law.’”
The judge apparently didn’t care for Millard’s response and sent him to jail.
Millard’s client alerted Millard’s colleagues at Miel & Carr. Blanchard immediately began driving to Ottawa County while Heath began drafting an emergency motion to stay Millard’s sentence pending appeal.
Ottawa County 20th Circuit Court Chief Judge Edward Post approved the motion and Millard was freed after about four hours in jail. The case is currently on hold.
Judge Kenneth Post did not return a message seeking comment from The Daily News.
Blanchard said his firm filed an appeal challenging the ruling. He and his colleagues also are considering filing a complaint for superintending control, asking 20th Circuit Court to exercise jurisdiction over minor in possession cases in 58th District Court.
The Stanton attorneys have just received a transcript of the court hearing. Blanchard is going to review it and then decide whether it would be appropriate to request an investigation by the Judicial Tenure Commission, which has the power to discipline or remove judges from the bench.
“Scott did what is required of attorneys,” Blanchard said. “He upheld the high ethical standards that are required by members of the bar. Despite being threatened with jail, he remained calm and respectful to the court. It’s our position that it’s improper to jail an attorney for advising his client in good faith.”
Millard is a graduate of Central Montcalm High School in Stanton, Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant and Barry University School of Law in Orlando, Fla. He said his experience last Friday hasn’t soured him on his career choice.
“For a long time, I’ve wanted to be a lawyer,” he said. “I love working here with Josh and Keeley and Duane. Every day that I work here is another day that I continue to develop as a lawyer. I love this profession. Certainly this is what I was meant to do.”