Of Counsel

Legal Notes on Georgia and The South

Sherri Jefferson’s Contempt Overturned

Posted by Maggie on February 26, 2008

If you check out the blawgs, you’ve probably already heard that Sherri Jefferson’s contempt was overturned yesterday by the Georgia Supreme Court. The opinion is here. If you were a Georgia PD at the time this happened, it was virtually impossible not to hear about it. It was a pretty rough time for all of us, since I think any PD with a spine would have done just what she did. Worse, many felt GPDSC abandoned Ms. Jefferson. Her letter of resignation hasn’t surfaced, but Defending the Public had the 33 pages of attachments and exhibits that show just what a tyrant she was dealing with. (And that thankfully she had a great Circuit Defender who was willing to back her up. Among the statements it seems the Judge made to her boss was that it was not appropriate for counsel of a juvenile to “console” their client.)

Thankfully something good has come out of all this. The Court has decided it’s time to rewrite the approach on contempt and lay it out in excessive detail. They also advise any court considering a contempt issue when counsel is representing a client to err on the side of zealous advocacy. Juvenile courts in particular can become a dictatorship rather than a court of law and justice. Believe me, I’ve seen it with my own eyes, and I’m just grateful that it never occurred to any Judge I practiced before to find me in contempt.

If you don’t recall, the statements that Jefferson was found in contempt for were:

“[T]hat’s a gross interference with the way that I can represent my client, your Honor”

and

“I just want the record to reflect with much respect, Your Honor, . . . I just find the Court is biased in its view. You say that you’re not prejudging the case but it seems to me like you’ve made up your mind and any and everything I do to effectively defend my client I’m being rebutted.”

The case has been remanded for reconsideration, though it’s pretty clear that the Supreme Court thinks there’s nothing even resembling contempt here.

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One Response to “Sherri Jefferson’s Contempt Overturned”

  1. karl said

    I’m happy for Sherri, I just wonder how she goes about getting back to her life in light of all the negatives this story drug up in & around Glynn County.

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