FAIRBANKS — Fairbanks attorney Jason Gazewood was held in contempt of court and fined $200 on Tuesday for comments made to Superior Court Judge Douglas Blankenship during a June 10 hearing.
Gazewood was ordered to show why he should not be held in contempt for “multiple contemptuous conduct” in which he questioned Blankenship’s ruling on evidence admission in a case involving Gazewood’s client.
Gazewood apologized to Blankenship after stating he didn’t feel his actions merited a contempt order.
“I think that the way that we conduct ourselves should be done with more decorum and should be done with a little more grace and a little more etiquette. And I apologize to the court for disrupting, you know, the general flow of traffic that day and certainly for making a tense situation worse. I could have conducted myself in a better way,” Gazewood said.
Blankenship played a recording of the June hearing in which Gazewood can be heard telling Blankenship he was going to the Court of Appeals. Blankenship answered he didn’t “give a damn” whether Gazewood appealed his ruling, and Gazewood told Blankenship the appeals court would show the judge “made plain error again.”
“Stop!” Blankenship said in the recording.
“I’m not stopping. I’m going to tell you you’re wrong,” Gazewood said.
Blankenship again ordered Gazewood to stop, but Gazewood did not.
“Because if I don’t, you clearly don’t know the law, but I’m trying to guide you to it. I tried to guide you to it before, you didn’t follow it. Now I’m telling you what it is,” Gazewood said.
Blankenship warned Gazewood he was out of order and advised him to behave in a more professional and respectful manner when raising objections instead of making “personal attacks.”
Gazewood replied he wasn’t personally attacking Blankenship, just telling him “what the law is.”
“I don’t want you to make the same mistake again. I’m trying to help you out as much as possible,” Gazewood said.
After listening to the recording, Blankenship told Gazewood his conduct that day lacked respect for the court as an institution and fostered “disrespect by the folks that we serve here — the public — and it was just a shocking display.”
Gazewood’s attorney and law firm partner Jason Weiner questioned whether Blankenship should be hearing the case since he was the aggrieved party.
“There’s a lot of history. Mr. Gazewood has apologized to the court for his behavior. I don’t know whether you’re saying that apology isn’t sufficient or what the goal is to be here. That was not an easy thing for any attorney to do,” Weiner said.
Weiner said Gazewood had sought counseling and done “everything he could have done” to address his behavior but was “very concerned” if the court was “going to go to the next level and this is going to be a mini-trial.”
“If that was a request that the court recuse itself, the court denies that request,” Blankenship said. “It’s certainly appropriate for the judge to render a decision concerning the contempt. The court does find Mr. Gazewood in contempt.”
Blankenship fined Gazewood $200 and suggested he give the money to a charitable organization such as the Fairbanks Community Food Bank or Fairbanks Counseling and Adoption.
Gazewood stood and addressed Blankenship after the ruling.
“You know judge, we might not have these problems if, one, you didn’t make fun of my (closing arguments) on a regular basis and, two, didn’t talk to my clients and tell them to fire me and hire Bob Downes. We wouldn’t be having these problems. That’s what happened,” Gazewood said.
Blankenship apologized for his comments and said he didn’t remember telling Gazewood’s clients to hire Downes.
“I don’t know. I respect Mr. Downes and that’s—”
“Really?” Gazewood interrupted. “You think that’s appropriate to tell a client that he should hire someone else?”
Weiner calmed his client and suggested the judge and attorney find a way to “move past” their difficulties.
“There is a certain history which also needs to go away to some degree. There needs to be healing between the two. The $200 sanction, we can easily do a donation. I don’t think that’s a very harsh penalty. Being found in contempt is, but it’s something that I think everybody’s accepting responsibility for,” Weiner said.
Contact staff writer Dorothy Chomicz at 459-7582. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMcrime.