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— A Gentry attorney was recently found in contempt of court for using his cell phone in the courtroom.

Eldon Cripps is appealing a Sept. 23 contempt decision rendered by Bentonville District Judge John Skaggs. Skaggs found Cripps in contempt and fined him $25.

Rogers attorney Doug Norwood filed an appeal of Skaggs’ decision Thursday in Benton County Circuit Court.

The case stems from an incident when Cripps was using his cell phone during a recess in the proceedings when the bailiff informed Cripps he could not use the cell phone in the courtroom, according to Norwood.

Cripps was not talking on the phone, but utilizing one of the online features.

Cripps exchanged words with the bailiff, then ended up speaking with Skaggs in his office, Norwood said.

Norwood said Cripps let loose a “curse word” in reference to the bailiff while speaking with the judge, who then found Cripps in contempt of court.

Norwood said he and his client first believed the contempt charge was for the profanity but later learned the charge was for using the cell phone.

“I don’t think either is contempt,” Norwood said. “I’ve been a lawyer for 23 years and have never heard of anything like this.”

The matter is not about a $25 fine for either Norwood or Cripps.

“It’s a big deal for a lawyer to be held in contempt,” Norwood said. “He needs to protect his record and professional reputation.”

Norwood said he understands finding someone in contempt if an attorney or someone else is speaking on a cell phone while the judge is taking testimony.

“I would expect the judge to smack them with his gavel,” Norwood said.

Norwood stressed that he doesn’t see how text messaging equals contempt, especially during a recess and the judge is not even present in the courtroom.

“I just don’t think that’s contempt,” Norwood said.

News, Pages 11 on 10/14/2009

Print Headline: Contempt for text messaging

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