PHILADELPHIA – Judge James Lynn of the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas sentenced Baron and Budd asbestos lawyer John Langdoc of Dallas to a week in prison and fined him $1,000 for grandstanding at a jury trial.
“Sheriff, will you take this prisoner away,” Lynn said after holding Langdoc in contempt on Oct. 19.
Neither Lynn nor the sheriff confirmed this week that Langdoc slept seven nights behind bars.
Langdoc got into trouble after he displayed to jurors a chart he had created on the spot showing hourly fees of defense experts.
His own expert, Dr. Steven Dikman, had just told jurors he testified at $600 an hour.
Langdoc asked Dikman if he was being paid in line with other experts.
Douglas Eisner of Philadelphia, representing Sears Roebuck, objected.
Regarding the exhibit, Lynn said, “Take it down.”
Lawyers crowded around Lynn and Eisler requested a mistrial.
Kevin Hexstall of Philadelphia, for Honeywell International, joined the motion.
Lynn sent jurors away.
Thomas Bernier, for Garlock Sealing Technologies, said his expert’s name appeared although Garlock was a party to a different phase of the case.
Bernier asked what Dikman could possibly answer about the rates of other experts.
Langdoc said, “There is no dispute at all that all of the information is true.”
Lynn asked how the witness could answer any questions.
Langdoc said, “The only question was -”
Lynn said, “We are going to do this out loud on the record.”
Eisler asked Lynn to make Langdoc’s exhibit part of the record.
Bernier said he checked and the Garlock expert on the chart wasn’t retained at all.
“It’s even more inaccurate than I thought,” he said.
Langdoc said he would read what he typed.
Lynn said, “I don’t need you reading it to me. I can read it.”
Lynn read it and asked how Dikman could answer the question Langdoc posed to him. Lynn asked Dikman if he had any idea of the truth of the information on the exhibit.
Dikman said, “I have never seen that. I don’t know any of that information.”
Lynn said, “I wouldn’t have thought so.”
Lynn asked Langdoc how he would give Dikman a fair opportunity to answer.
Langdoc said, “I don’t think there’s any dispute. That’s what the rates are.”
Lynn said, “You never asked him that before, did you, if he knew what those rates were?”
Langdoc said no.
Lynn said, “You just threw this up here as a shot, right?”
Langdoc said yes.
Lynn said, “Didn’t I warn you not to grandstand in front of the jury?”
Langdoc said, “You did.”
Lynn said, “I am fining you one thousand dollars for contempt of court.”
“I am sentencing you to a week in prison.” he said. “That’s outrageous conduct.”
Lynn declared a mistrial but then changed his mind.
He said he would tell jurors there was a proper place to make the argument Langdoc ineptly, improperly, illegally and disrespectfully tried to make.
He brought the jury back and said he sustained the objection and struck the exhibit.
“It was entirely improper procedure, completely wrong, and it is prejudice in this trial and I am telling you now, please disregard completely what you saw and what I saw on that movie screen to my left,” he said.
Langdoc finished questioning Dikman, and Lynn excused the witness.
Lynn told jurors he would see them tomorrow.
When the last juror left, Lynn said, “Mr. Langdoc, you must stand.”
“I am committing you to the custody of the sheriff of Philadelphia,” Lynn said.
Defense lawyer Eisler, nearly as stunned as Langdoc, said, “Your honor, may I ask if you would reconsider the commitment of Mr. Langdoc?”
Lynn said, “No. You are a gentleman and I am not reconsidering that.”