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State Bar mulling response to contempt incident in Milwaukee

The State Bar of Wisconsin is looking into whether it should respond to an incident in October when a Milwaukee County trial court judge had a government defense attorney handcuffed and belly-chained at a hearing.

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

Borowski found Tsai in contempt for rolling his eyes, throwing up his hands and “acting like I’m (Borowski is) 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.

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

Borowski vacated the contempt order on Oct. 29 and recused himself from the case.

State Bar President Chris Rogers told the Board of Governors at its meeting on Friday that he and other bar officials are looking into whether the bar should make a statement. He noted that other steps they might take include forming a taskforce or arranging special continuing-legal-education courses for judges. He said bar officials have yet to decide what the best course of action is.

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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