Judge Calls Out Lawyers for ‘Not Civil’ Commentary at Traffic Court Trial

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Stengel admonished lawyers during a Traffic Court trial.

As the defense and prosecution debated burden of proof issues in a Philadelphia Traffic Court corruption trial Tuesday, they apparently got a little snippy with each other. And U.S. District Judge Lawrence Stengel wasn’t having any of it.

Stengel told an attorney to “cut it out,” had the jury escorted out of the courtroom, then chastised the lawyers for their “off-the-cuff commentary.” William DeStefano, counsel for defendant Michael Lowry, apologized to the judge. “I don’t want to hear ever again at sidebar, ‘your redirect was absurd,'” Stengel said to the lawyers. “It’s distracting and it’s not civil. It’s going on on both sides and it’s not helping.”

The debate that led to the admonishment, per The Legal Intelligencer, sounds pretty low-key. But, you know, courtroom decorum. It started with an objection made by the defense.

“I think it is a dangerous precedent that the government is setting,” [defendant Robert Moy’s attorney Paul] Hetznecker told the court.

“I don’t believe the words ‘burden of proof’ ever came out of my mouth,” [Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony] Wzorek responded.

It’s unclear what DeStefano said that led him to apologize.

[The Legal Intelligencer]