Philadelphia Family Court Judge Lyris F. Younge, whose history of due process violations was recently reported by The Legal, has been removed from a case in which she allegedly held a lawyer in contempt without giving him the opportunity to defend himself.
In an order entered April 6, the state Superior Court pulled Younge from Philadelphia lawyer Brian McLaughlin’s contempt matter and reassigned it to the Family Court’s head judge, Administrative Judge Margaret T. Murphy. The appeals court did not provide any reasoning for its decision.
The court’s order came in response to an appeal of Younge’s contempt determination filed by McLaughlin and his lawyer, Karen Deanna Williams.
As part of that appeal, McLaughlin asked the Superior Court to provide a copy of the adoption dockets in the underlying family case that gave rise to the contempt ruling. The appeal also sought an order directing the trial court to create a miscellaneous docket of the contempt matter and to refund filing fees associated with the matter.
In its April 6 order, the Superior Court denied those requests without prejudice, directing McLaughlin to instead seek the requested relief from Murphy. The Superior Court did, however, grant McLaughlin’s request to remove the Philadelphia Department of Human Services as a party to the matter.
“I believe that the Superior Court, understanding the gravity of the situation, has provided my client an opportunity to make a record before the lower court,” Williams said in an interview Tuesday, “and perhaps when the [Superior] court has the opportunity to review the totality of the circumstances in this case, it will translate for relief for all litigants denied due process in [Younge's] courtroom.”
McLaughlin had a family case before Younge and another before Judge Robert J. Rebstock on the same day, Nov. 30, 2017, according to the application for relief filed March 15. Younge held McLaughlin in contempt for showing up late to her courtroom after the matter in Rebstock’s courtroom ran longer than expected.
In his court papers, however, McLaughlin claimed that he waited in Younge’s courtroom for an hour-and-a-half before he was summoned by Rebstock.
According to McLaughlin, Younge continually put off his contempt hearing while moving forward with the family matter until it appeared that she had decided to let the contempt case go.
Then, during a scheduled hearing Jan. 23 in the family case, Younge allegedly sprung an unscheduled contempt hearing on McLaughlin, according to his appeal.
“Over the repeated, strenuous, persistent objections of appellant’s counsel and entreaties about the negative impact of the court’s action on appellant’s good name and reputation,” the appeal said, “the trial court forced appellant to trial without apprising him of the nature of the contempt or affording him an opportunity to prepare defense or present witnesses, most importantly, the presiding jurist in the summoning courtroom who wouldn’t allow appellant to leave (thus negating the willfulness of any contempt).”
McLaughlin and Williams further alleged in the appeal that Younge had accessed the adoptions, or “AP,” docket and entered a continuance order and a new contempt hearing date for Jan. 23. McLaughlin’s case did not pertain to adoption and he said he would have had no reason to check that docket. He also claimed he never filed a continuance request.
“It is believed and therefore averred that docketing the continuance order under the AP docket was purposefully done to preclude appellant from having any knowledge of, raising question about or refuting the purported ‘continuance request,’” the appeal said.
McLaughlin also claimed in the application for relief that Younge was trying to hurt him financially, knowing that the only way he could fight her decision was through a costly appeal.