The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan is siding with a Stanton attorney who was thrown into jail by a judge for invoking his client’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Scott Millard, 29, appeared in Ottawa County’s 58th District Court in Hudsonville on Dec. 2 to represent a client charged as a minor in possession of alcohol second offense.
While discussing bond conditions, Judge Kenneth Post inquired whether Millard’s client, when given a drug test, would be “clean or dirty.” Millard informed Post his client intended to stand mute to the question. Post was not pleased with this response.
After several exchanges and recesses between the attorney and the judge, Post ordered Millard to jail for contempt of court. Millard also was fined $100.
Millard’s client alerted Millard’s colleagues at Miel & Carr in Stanton. Joshua Blanchard immediately began driving to Ottawa County while Keeley 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.
Blanchard filed a brief Wednesday requesting Ottawa County’s 20th Circuit Court overturn Post’s finding of contempt. Blanchard has also asked the Judicial Tenure Commission (JTC) investigate the matter. The JTC has the power to discipline or remove judges from the bench.
“Mr. Millard acted appropriately in advising his client not to answer questions posed by the judge which could potentially be used against the client at a later proceeding,” Blanchard stated. “Our system of justice requires attorneys who are willing to stand up for their client’s rights even in the face of hostile judges.”
The ACLU of Michigan, Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan (CDAM) and the Ottawa County Bar Association also filed briefs Wednesday supporting the appeal.
“Our justice system is based on the ability of attorneys to represent their clients vigorously and effectively,” said Miriam Aukerman, staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan. “The attorney in this case was thrown in jail for simply doing his job. If allowed to stand, this judge’s actions could set a dangerous precedent in which defense attorneys fear punishment for defending their client’s best interests.”
The Ottawa County Bar Association statement explained that it opposed the finding of contempt because it “has a strong interest in ensuring the fair administration of justice, including the respectful treatment by, and of, the bench, the bar and litigants in that process.”
Judge Kenneth Post did not return a message seeking comment from The Daily News.