A week after a judge took the rare step of holding a public defender in contempt of court, her colleagues — including senior staff attorneys, a summer law school intern and even Maryland’s top public defender Paul DeWolfe — packed a Baltimore district courtroom Thursday afternoon in support of one of their own.
District Court Judge Joan B. Gordon issued the contempt ruling against Durriyyah Rose, an attorney with the public defender’s office, at an Aug. 8 hearing, saying she was rude and attempted to delay the proceeding. The contempt finding carries a range of sanctions, including up to six months in jail, although that is extremely unlikely.
At Thursday’s hearing, Rose’s attorneys asked the judge to vacate the contempt finding. Gordon is expected to issue a written ruling at a later date.
Rose’s attorney, Stephen Hut, argued that the judge wrongly found Rose in contempt for allegedly interrupting, delaying court proceedings and being on her cellphone. Rose was defending a client accused of petty theft at the time.
Rose did not mean to offend, but was acting in a “good faith, honorable, zealous — appropriately so” manner to protect her client’s constitutional rights, Hut said.
The prosecutor assigned to the theft case agreed to not pursue charges against Rose’s client in exchange for restitution, which would have been less than $150.
Hut told the judge that Rose interrupted once, but only in an effort to consult her client and make sure she understood the details. Hut also argued his client was not attempting to delay the proceedings, but taking time to inform her client.
Hut also addressed allegations that Rose pulled out her cellphone during the hearing, which he called an attempt to seek case law and contact her supervisor on how to proceed.
Rose did not speak at Thursday’s hearing, sitting at the trial table between her two attorneys.
Neither Hut nor Rose would comment after the hearing.
The judge did not respond to a request for comment. A judiciary spokeswoman said Thursday that judges cannot comment about their cases.
Several years ago Gordon was at the center of a case in which a Baltimore police officer was charged with wiretapping her during a conversation over whether to issue a search warrant after a shooting.
At his 2014 trial, former Sgt. Carlos M. Vila testified that he accidentally recorded his telephone conversation with the judge after she hesitated in issuing a search warrant after a shooting.
In the recording, which was played in court, Vila can be heard reminding the judge of her responsibilities, The Baltimore Sun reported at the time.
"It's your duty, your honor. You're on call," he said.
Gordon testified that she was trying to determine whether the warrant was an emergency that would justify a detective coming to her house on a Saturday evening.
Vila’s trial ended in a hung jury and he resigned from the force after prosecutors agreed to drop the charges.