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Judge vacates contempt order against public defender (UPDATE)

A Milwaukee County judge has vacated the contempt order against a government defense attorney.

Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge David Borowski found Assistant State Public Defender Puck Tsai in contempt of court at a bail hearing Oct. 26 and had Tsai handcuffed and belly-chained. Tsai was later released after he apologized.

According to online court records, Borowski issued an order Friday vacating the contempt order against Tsai. He also recused himself from the case, which has been assigned to Judge Mark Sanders.

Borowski found Tsai in contempt for rolling his eyes, throwing up his hands and “acting like I’m some kind of idiot,” according to a transcript of the hearing.

The State Public Defender’s office defended Tsai, saying he had only been doing his job as a defense attorney. On Tuesday, the SPD filed a letter asking Borowski to vacate the contempt order. The letter noted that Borowski had asked to apologize to Tsai and asked Borowski to do so in writing.

“It is of utmost importance that Attorney Tsai’s reputation be restored,” wrote SPD Deputy Regional Attorney Manager Paige Styler.

After examining the hearing transcript, the state’s criminal defense bar, the Wisconsin Association for Criminal Defense Attorneys slammed Borowski for not following the proper procedures and called for Borowski to vacate the contempt order and apologize to Tsai — or resign.

On Friday, WACDL President Chad Lanning said in a statement that WACDL was pleased with Borowski’s decision to vacate the contempt order. He noted that WACDL was not part of the proceedings leading up to the Friday’s order.

About Erika Strebel, erika.strebel@wislawjournal.com

Erika Strebel is the law beat reporter for the Wisconsin Law Journal and a law school student at UW-Madison. She can be reached at 414-225-1825.

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