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IN RE TROUTT

November 16, 2004.

IN RE ERIC D. TROUTT, Attorney Disciplinary Matter.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: MICHAEL J. REAGAN, District Judge

ORDER FOLLOWING CONTEMPT/SHOW CAUSE HEARING

A. Introduction and Procedural Background

On June 25, 2004, attorney Eric Troutt was suspended from the practice of law in this District under Rule 83.4 of the LOCAL RULES OF THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS. The suspension was based on a September 2002 Order of the Supreme Court of Oklahoma approving Troutt's resignation pending disciplinary proceedings.

  Troutt sought review of his suspension by motion filed July 6, 2004. Randomly assigned to this case, the undersigned District Judge convened a status conference/hearing on July 30, 2004, heard argument from Troutt, and accepted supplemental material in support of Troutt's motion.

  On August 6, 2004, the undersigned District Judge granted the relief sought by Troutt and reinstated Troutt to the roll of attorneys admitted to practice in this Court. Later that day, Troutt filed two pleadings. One (Doc. 12) was a motion to alter or amend the Court's reinstatement Order. The other was a document captioned "Response to Court Order" (Doc. 11). In that pleading, Troutt harshly criticized the undersigned District Judge for three sentences in the reinstatement Order. Based on the filing of that "Response," this Court ordered Troutt to appear at a hearing (set in October 2004) to show cause why he should not be held in criminal contempt. See Doc. 17. In mid-August 2004, a party not involved in the disciplinary matter before this Court filed a motion seeking a temporary restraining order ("TRO") or injunctive relief against Troutt. This Court conducted a hearing on the motion and denied the request for a TRO or injunction. During the hearing on that motion, however, certain other facts came to light which resulted in the Court entering a Supplemental Show Cause Order on September 3, 2004.

  That Order reminded Troutt that he must appear for a show cause/contempt hearing on October 29, 2004 before the undersigned Judge. The September 3rd Order also directed Troutt to respond in writing by September 24, 2004 to both the original Show Cause Order and the Supplemental Show Cause Order. Troutt filed a written response on September 25, 2004 (Doc. 27). Although, technically, the response was filed belatedly, the Court accepted and considered it.

  Two days before the October 29, 2004 show cause/contempt hearing, Troutt moved to continue the hearing due to personal, confidential reasons. The Court (without requiring Troutt to delineate the personal, confidential reasons) immediately issued an Order continuing the hearing for two weeks, "so that he (Troutt) may rest and get well" (Doc. 31). The hearing was rescheduled for November 12, 2004, one of very few open slots on the Court's docket/calendar for the month of November. The Court also reiterated that, at the show cause/contempt hearing, Troutt would be permitted not only to orally argue the points advanced in his September 25th response to the Show Cause Orders but also to call witnesses and present evidence relevant to the contempt issues. On November 10, 2004 (again, two days before the scheduled hearing), Troutt moved the Court to cancel the hearing and instead schedule a status conference in this matter (Doc. 32). The Court denied the motion immediately (Doc. 33).

  The following day, November 11, 2004 (a day on which the Courthouse was closed for the observance of Veteran's Day), Troutt filed a motion again asking the Court to delay the show cause/contempt hearing (Doc. 34). That motion hinted that Troutt would not appear at the hearing the following day, due to commitments in other Courts, before other Judges.

  Because the undersigned Judge and one of his law clerks both were working from their respective homes on the Court holiday, they were electronically alerted to Troutt's Veteran's Day filing and were able to draft and e-file an Order that same day denying Troutt's motion and emphasizing that he must appear at the November 12th hearing, that the Court would render a decision with or without Troutt present, and that Troutt's failure to appear November 12th would be construed as contumacious behavior (Doc. 35).

  Despite having been given multiple notices of the hearing (Docs. 17, 23, 31, 33, 35), Attorney Troutt failed to appear at the show cause/contempt hearing.

  B. Jurisdiction and Venue

  Eric Troutt has been a lawyer practicing in this District since February 14, 2003. Local Rule 83.4 of this District provides that the Judges of this Court, in furtherance of their inherent power and responsibility to supervise the conduct of attorneys admitted to practice before them, may conduct disciplinary proceedings. Additionally, 18 U.S.C. § 401 provides the federal district courts with general contempt authority. Section 401 provides:
A court of the United States shall have power to punish by fine or imprisonment, or both, at its discretion, such contempt of its authority, and none other, as —
(1) Misbehavior of any person in its presence or so near thereto as to obstruct the administration of justice; . . . [and]
(3) Disobedience or resistance to its lawful writ, process, order, rule, decree, or command.
  Furthermore, FEDERAL RULE OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE 42(b) empowers a United States District Court to "summarily punish a person who commits criminal contempt in its presence if the judge saw or heard the contemptuous conduct and so certifies." The undersigned District Judge now certifies that he did witness, first-hand, contemptuous conduct by attorney Eric Troutt.

  C. Analysis

  In the original Show Cause Order (Doc. 17), the Court outlined three reasons Troutt should show cause why he ought ...


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