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Lawyer Who Refused to Wear a Coat and Tie in Court Stays out of Jail

Santa Cruz County Judge John Gallagher called attorney Ed Fry into court Friday for a contempt hearing that could have landed him in jail.

 

Occupy Santa Cruz attorney Ed Fry showed up in court Friday with a flashy sport jacket he says he hasn't worn in 15 years, a tie and his best behavior as he faced a contempt charge brought against him by County Judge John Gallagher.

The judge called him in contempt of court for wearing sweatpants to court and no tie or jacket while defending a man who was charged with illegally sleeping for three nights on a bench outside the courthouse.

Fry argued that he dressed like a homeless man because during jury selection a prospective juror said something negative about homeless people being able to afford expensive attorneys. He wanted to dress down, he said, so as not to bias the jury.

"It was not for the purpose of expressing any contempt to the dignity of this court," Fry said Friday morning. "But an attorney's judgement in the interest of protecting his client."

Gallager accepted his apology and threw out the contempt charge and then threw in a surprise.

He recalled an appearance Fry made at the county's bench/bar meeting asking the judges to intervene with Gallagher and throw out the contempt charge.

"You made an impassioned plea to my colleagues to implore me not to send you to jail," said Gallagher. "I don't think you knew it at the time, but I was sitting right behind you."

Gallagher went on to chastize the attorney for taking up a court matter outside the courthouse and trying to sway officers of the court that way, which he said would have been a breach of judicial ethics. He said none of them interceded on Fry's behalf.

After the hearing Fry was surrounded by happy Occupy supporters. In his typical outspoken manner, he said he wasn't surprised by the decision because his public defender told him about the arrangement beforehand.

"That's the way the court system works," he said.

Fry has had his share of problems this year with the system. He put up $35,000 bond for protesting hacker Christopher Doyon who was charged with hacking into the city of Santa Cruz's computer system and shutting it down to protest its laws against homeless people sleeping out.

Doyon fled to Canada, skipping out on the bond and federal prosecutors are trying to collect it from Fry.

Frank Monahan May 18, 2012 at 10:06 PM
Can someone show me this dress code provission in the US Constitution?
Brad Kava (Editor) May 18, 2012 at 10:12 PM
Nice. Somehow the Constitution has been interpreted to read that judges can do what they want whenever.
DavidMinton May 19, 2012 at 12:41 AM
You go girl weat a dress ir bathrobe if you like. What do they claim you are disrespecting the judge eesring a robe.
DavidMinton May 19, 2012 at 12:43 AM
Congratukatiins Ed Frey on riding well that vabgaurd wave..change"
Robert Norse May 21, 2012 at 02:36 AM
As he recounted it to me, Gallagher castigated him for appearing in sweat clothes not "like a homeless person". Rather he "dressed down" so as not to be regarded as a "rich attorney" in the case of Gary Johnson. Johnson was arrested and convicted of sleeping on the bench (PC 647e "Illegal Lodging"), blatantly political prosecution similar to the attacks on the Santa Cruz Eleven, in front of the courthouse last winter with a sign "Sleeping is Not a Crime" in protest of the City's anti-homeless law (MC 6.36.010) that bans sleeping outside or in vehicles after 11 PM. This makes criminals out of all homeless people who are not on the Homeless (Lack of) Services Center's "waiting list". (There are rarely if ever spaces actually available without a 2-6 week wait). A key defense in such cases is the "necessity defense" which argues that it's "legal" to break a law if you can prove a necessity that following it would create a greater evil. Frey told me overheard one person in the jury pool say " I guess the homeless people got together to kick in for a rich attorney." He wanted to avoid that prejudice.

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