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People v. Halprin

OPINION FILED DECEMBER 1, 1983.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

JUDITH A. HALPRIN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Arthur J. Cieslik, Judge, presiding.

PRESIDING JUSTICE ROMITI DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

The defendant, Judith Halprin, an attorney, appeals from an order of the circuit court of Cook County, finding her in contempt of court and fining her $1,000 for making certain statements in the presence of prospective jurors during voir dire examination. In this appeal, defendant contends that the trial court erred in finding her in contempt because of the vagueness of the court's rulings concerning what statements were prohibited and because she was entitled to make such statements and objections in order to properly represent her client.

On July 15, 1981, defendant and two assistant State's Attorneys appeared before Judge Arthur Cieslik regarding pretrial motions in the matter of Wayne Davis (No. 80-C-4507). Defendant represented Wayne Davis. At that time, defendant made a motion in limine to exclude the State's prospective witnesses, who were the victims of other rapes allegedly perpetrated by Wayne Davis. After hearing the arguments of counsel, the trial court denied defendant's motion and directed defendant to proceed with any other matters she had prior to jury selection. However, defendant refused to accept this ruling and proceeded to bring the matter up more than 20 times. Defendant also informed the court that it was not in a position to make such a ruling. Defendant then refused to proceed to her next motion despite numerous requests by the court.

After again attempting to continue with the proceedings, the following colloquy took place:

"MS. HALPRIN: I am renewing at this time my motion * * *.

THE COURT: Request denied I heard the arguments on it before.

MS. HALPRIN: There is argument on it.

THE COURT: Your request is denied. Proceed. I deny it, any further comments will not be allowed and any further comment with reference with that situation existing whereby you will be in contempt of this Court, proceed."

In response, defendant replied that she felt intimidated and asked the court to eliminate the aura of intimidation by removing the threat of contempt; however, the court denied this motion, stating that it felt that counsel was contemptuous of the court. The court further stated that "[a]ny other extracurricular statements heretofore made not probative to the matter before this Court can be cited in contempt by you by me." Defendant responded that she intended no disrespect for the court.

Defendant then made two oral motions, which were denied by the trial court, before the prospective jurors were brought into the courtroom. However, immediately prior to the jury being ushered in, the court informed the prosecutors and defendant that any questions concerning an individual juror were to be submitted in writing unless they were very brief or for the purposes of clarification. Defendant objected to this practice in the following manner:

"MS. HALPRIN: Exclusive conduct [sic] the voir dire by the Court and the granting of peremptory challenges to the State are over the objections of the defendant. We'd have a motion that we were prepared to argue upon that voir dire. We are not allowed to argue.

THE COURT: Your motion was ruled on and I will stand on my ruling. Okay, would you bring the jury in?"

The prospective jurors were sworn, and the trial court informed them that the indictment charged Wayne Davis with the offense of rape. The court then commenced the voir dire examination of each prospective juror seeking such information as residence, prior courtroom experience, marital status, employment, family relationships and their employment, whether the juror had been victimized by crime or the accused, possible prejudice due to the nature of the charge, the ability to give both sides a fair trial, and the relationship of the juror and his family to law enforcement authorities.

At this point the State exercised its first peremptory challenge, and defendant then made the following objection in front of the prospective jurors:

"MS. HALPRIN: Judge, I am going to object at this point to the State exercising peremptory challenges and would like to be heard on that issue."

A sidebar was then held in chambers where defendant again argued the unconstitutionality of the State's use of peremptory challenges. While in chambers, defendant argued that defendant Wayne Davis should be present for the sidebar. However, the court denied the request. Defendant persisted in her objection:

"MS. HALPRIN: I believe that he's entitled to be present.

THE COURT: He's not. This is a sidebar proceeding, it's a discretionary matter of the Court and I refuse to have him present.

MS. HALPRIN: Based on what happened I am moving that he be present."

However, the trial court again denied this request, and voir dire was then resumed.

After a panel of jurors was examined and the prosecution accepted that panel, defendant responded to the court's inquiry as to her acceptance of the panel as follows:

"MS. HALPRIN: Your Honor, I will move at this time that either this entire panel be dismissed or that further questioning of the panel be conducted pursuant to Chapter 78 of the Illinois Revised Statute which is the chapter dealing with jurors.

I do not think that they have been ...


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