A heated exchange between D.C. Superior Court Judge John Bayly Jr. and Public Defender Service attorney Liyah Brown last week ended with Brown in a holding cell -- the first time, Bayly says, he has ever detained a lawyer.
During a criminal hearing on Aug. 29, Brown attempted to point out that her client "is a homeless man," according to court transcripts. Bayly, however, responded with skepticism: "I don't know that he is." The two argued over the point before Bayly told Brown to have a seat. "Step her back, please. Step her back," Bayly told a U.S. marshal, according to the transcript. Brown was shackled and held in a cell with misdemeanor defendants.
Bayly called PDS general counsel Julia Leighton (who was not present at the hearing) to the bench and told her what had occurred: "She was oppositional and defiant. Not in an unpleasant way, you understand, you know, but she just defiantly refused what I said to do, which was to stop talking."
Bayly compared Brown's actions in court to "a terrier with a bone. ... She wouldn't let go." Leighton then told the judge that Brown "is an exceptional lawyer" and "a relatively new lawyer ... with exceptional promise." Bayly didn't press contempt charges, and Brown was released.
Leighton says Bayly humiliated Brown. "The judge's order that Ms. Brown be taken into custody was unfounded, violated fundamental due process principles and was an abuse of power," she says. "His conduct deserves review."
Leah Gurowitz, spokeswoman for the D.C. courts, noted that on Aug. 31, Bayly met with PDS officials to discuss the matter. Leighton says, "We met with Judge Bayly, and that matter remains unresolved."