Attorney running for judgeship gets charged with contempt

Rania Major-Trunfio : Hit with contempt charge.
Rania Major-Trunfio : Hit with contempt charge.
Posted: April 19, 2013

A DEFENSE ATTORNEY who is running to become a Common Pleas judge was slapped with a contempt charge Thursday after a courtroom dispute with the judge.

Municipal Judge Karen Yvette Simmons ordered a deputy sheriff to take attorney Rania Major-Trunfio from the courtroom and set her bail at $5,000. Court records list the charge as, "Contempt/Misbehavior In Presence of Court."

Simmons made the order after she told Major-Trunfio not to say another word, but the attorney instead asked for a bail motion for her client, who is accused of possessing child pornography on his computer.

Word of the incident spread quickly in the city's Criminal Justice Center and Major-Trunfio, 51, was soon represented by four fellow defense attorneys.

"I was defending my client's rights. That's what I do, I believe in the Constitution," Major-Trunfio said after posting the required 10 percent of her bail.

"She didn't want me to say anything else in the courtroom, but I still hadn't asked about the bail motion. So, I said, 'Bail motion.' And when I said that I got put in the back."

Major-Trunfio and her attorneys insisted that she was not arrested and they expect Simmons to vacate her contempt citation at a hearing scheduled for Friday.

"In the heat of battle, lawyers sometimes push too far and overtalk the judge. It happens. I've been in holding cells before," said Samuel Stretton, who is Major-Trunfio's personal and campaign attorney.

He said he apologized to Simmons on behalf of Major-Trunfio, who is not expected to attend Friday's hearing.

This is not the first time Simmons and Major-Trunfio have clashed. On Oct. 25, Simmons charged Major-Trunfio with contempt when the attorney said, "That's not true" in response to a statement a probation officer had made regarding her client.

Simmons then found Major-Trunfio not in contempt at a Nov. 2 hearing after the attorney apologized, court records show.

Major-Trunfio, who was cited in January for smoking in a Justice Center stairwell and ordered to take a diversion class, said her latest contempt case may help her candidacy for the bench in next month's primary election.

"It may prove to the people who I have already been speaking to that I really am a people's candidate, I really do believe in protecting the Constitution and I do it at all cost," she said, smoking a cigarette across the street from the courthouse. "You have to be a zealous advocate."

On Twitter: @MensahDean

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