Cobbins’ defense attorney, Kim Parton, refused Thursday to raise that issue [Judge Richard Baumgartner possibly being under the influence of pills] as grounds for an automatic motion for new trial filed in Cobbins’ case. She was so emphatic in her belief that Baumgartner, who has since resigned and pleaded guilty to a felony charge of official misconduct, was in his right mind when Cobbins was tried that she sought to withdraw from representing Cobbins, who insisted she argue he deserved a new trial because of Baumgartner’s alleged impairment.
Richard Baumgartner was a distinguished lawyer and judge. As a Criminal Court jurist, he presided with dignity and grace over many of the most difficult and notorious cases in Knox County over the past two decades. Anyone who saw how ravaged his face became over the past couple of years knew that he was suffering from something. I thought it was merely him aging; I had no idea what he was going through.
For Kim Parton to refuse to raise the "judge under the influence" issue shows what trial lawyers are capable of. It's a no-brainer argument, one would think, at least if one gets one's education from the plethora of stupid lawyer shows habitually on the air. Howver, unless there is some evidence that Baumgartner actually was under the influence at the time of the trial, or that his conduct was somehow degraded to the point where the defendant failed to get a fair trial, Ms. Parton is absolutely right to refuse to raise the argument. And she is absolutely right to move to withdraw as counsel if the client is insisting she do something she believes is inappropriate. That's what lawyers are supposed to do: use independent legal judgment, regardless of how unpopular that judgment might be.
Kim Parton gets my "Lawyer of the Week" award (I invented it just now, just for her).