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Overscheduled Attorney's 5-Day Jail Sentence Stayed by Appeals Court

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on April 24, 2012 6:04 AM

What would you do if you had one murder trial scheduled and then a second one suddenly came up? What if this first trial date was flexible, but the second one was practically set in stone?

Attorney Tim Pori of California was in this very situation last week when he went before Judge Carrie Panetta. But when he explained the conflict -- and why he wasn't prepared -- she found him in contempt. And then she sentenced him to five days in jail and to pay a $2,500 fine.

Luckily, an appellate court has stayed that sentence.

Pori's plight began weeks ago, when homicide client Jesus Vidrio refused to waive his right to a speedy trial, reports KTVU. His trial date was set for April 30 and couldn't be changed.

But Pori was also scheduled to represent Andrew Toon Wang on April 16. Though he has been representing Wang for 16 months, he showed up on Monday and told the judge he was unprepared. He then asked for a delay.

He explained that he had to stop preparing for Wang's retrial and start preparing for Vidrio's court date, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. He chose to prioritize Vidrio over Wang because his court date was inflexible.

Judge Panetta rescheduled Wang's trial for June 18, but still held Tim Pori in contempt. She felt there was no justification for giving Vidrio priority over Wang.

A state appellate court has stayed the jail sentence until May 30, according to the Chronicle, and has scheduled oral arguments for that date. Meanwhile, the local legal community is abuzz.

Tim Pori's attorney, Daniel Russo, told the Chronicle that others have reached out over concerns that the judge was trying "to subordinate his ethical obligations to his client" to her schedule. Some have even sent money to cover the $2,500 if it is not overturned.

Would you have done the same thing as Tim Pori? Or was he in the wrong?

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