You gotta hand it to temporary Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Schulte: He respects the elderly. But maybe a little too much.
About a year ago, Schulte found that an 83-year-old man named Michael had been the victim of elder abuse. Not because of what allegedly happened to him at home, but because the defense lawyer had raised his voice and been confrontational while questioning the old guy in court.
“The examination of him, I think, was abusive to him,” the judge told the lawyer. “We’re in a court of families that go through these difficult times. And they need to be treated with respect. And I compared that to how [Michael’s counsel] cross-examined [Diana]. With respect, without raising his voice, without being confrontational.”
And he was peeved that the elderly man’s daughter, who was accused of abuse, didn’t tap the attorney on the shoulder and tell him to tone down the questioning.
And how’d that affect the ruling? And the appeal? After the jump.
Well, that’s all it took for Schulte to find elder abuse in a case that he said had been a close call otherwise. “That was the straw that made the difference in tipping the scale as to whether or not [Michael] has been treated in an abusive way,” the judge said.
On Tuesday, Santa Ana’s Fourth District Court of Appeal said, “Nuh-uh, can’t let you get away with that.” Or, more specifically:
“Counsel’s tone of voice or style of examination,” the court held, “is not evidence, and cannot be the basis for the issuance of a protective order under the Elder Abuse Act.”
It also counseled that clients aren’t required to correct their attorneys’ behavior during the examination of a witness.
The ruling didn’t identify the lawyer Schulte bashed. But Orange County court records indicate the old man’s daughter was represented by Irvine solo Ronald Cordova.
— Mike McKee