The WSJ’s Law Blog reports today that a judge in North Carolina held an attorney in contempt last week after he saw the attorney reading Maxim magazine in court.
For those of you not familiar with Maxim, it is (reportedly) a men’s magazine something like Playboy but with slightly more clothing involved.
Todd Paris was allegedly reading the magazine while waiting for his cases to be called (it sounds like he was there to ask for continuances, but that’s not clear). Judge Kevin Eddinger was hearing other cases but noticed the cover of the magazine, which Paris was reading in the front row. He demanded that Paris come forward and bring the magazine. According to the court, Paris apologized, "stated [that] in his view the magazine was not pornography, was available at local stores and that he did not intend contempt." He also offered to discard it, but the judge declined that offer. After what the WSJ described as some "banter," the judge held Paris in contempt, fined him $300, and put him on probation with a 15-day suspended sentence.
I suspected the "banter" was the real problem here, and the local paper’s story confirms that. Rather than just sticking with an apology, Paris insisted on defending the magazine and his decision to bring it to court. He "repeatedly" told the judge that the magazine does not include nudity or pornography — it doesn’t, but that wasn’t exactly the point — and also claimed that he had folded the cover over, which the judge said was not true. At some point this banter escalated to the judge threatening Paris with contempt, but he did not seem to take this seriously, instead proceeding to ask Eddinger to continue his clients’ cases.
A ten-minute timeout was called.
Despite having some time to think about it, Paris stuck to his guns after the break. He asked the judge to look at the mailing label, which he said would confirm that it was his girlfriend’s subscription. He said he had taken "similar magazines" into other courtrooms and never had a problem, and then proceeded to read the judge some of the picture captions. None of this improved the judge’s mood.
The magazine was seized and identified as "Exhibit A" for Paris’s contempt case. Which, presumably, will require the judge to review it in some detail.