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D.C. Superior Court’s Erik Christian has a reputation for being a tough judge who runs a tight ship. He has no compunction about issuing bench warrants for those who show up late to his courtroom — defendants and lawyers alike — or locking up those he feels deserve it. Recently, a lawyer with the D.C. Public Defender Service found herself in Christian’s cross hairs. Gladys Weatherspoon was in the middle of defending her client in a murder trial on Oct. 28 when the judge had her removed from the courtroom and held in contempt. What exactly happened is still being debated, and Superior Court regulars are awaiting an official transcript. But according to two sources who were in the courtroom, the incident occurred during arguments over Weatherspoon’s subpoena of a government witness and a request for a mistrial. Weatherspoon told the judge that she believed the court was being unfair to her and her client. At some point she muttered something along the lines of “This is absurd.” Christian asked Weatherspoon to repeat herself, and then, the sources say, he asked the U.S. marshal to step Weatherspoon back — a phrase that means take into custody. The entire incident lasted only about five minutes and took place while the jury was out of the courtroom. When the trial resumed, Weatherspoon was back at the defense table, though her client was ultimately found guilty. Weatherspoon declined to comment on the incident through a Public Defender Service spokeswoman. Calls to Christian’s chambers were not returned.
Bethany Broida can be contacted at [email protected].

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