District Judge Stefany Miley left a courtroom of observers, including media, wondering Tuesday whether some backroom dealing saved an outspoken defense lawyer and judicial candidate from being held in contempt.
Miley issued an order last Friday for Jonathan MacArthur, who is running for a seat in North Las Vegas Justice Court, to explain at a hearing why he shouldn't be held in contempt. Miley said she wanted to know why MacArthur had failed to remain in court the previous day to represent his client in a probation revocation case and why he didn't "maintain appropriate courtroom decorum."
On Tuesday, MacArthur and his lawyer, Thomas Pitaro, showed up for the hearing, but it never took place. Instead, Pitaro and MacArthur met with Miley behind closed doors in her chambers, and the judge never took the bench to explain what had happened for the court record.
Pitaro emerged from the judge's chambers refusing to comment, and MacArthur eluded the media by slipping out a side door without having to come back into court.
Miley later issued a written order saying the matter had been taken "off calendar," with no explanation. She did not return a phone call.
District Court spokeswoman Mary Ann Price was asked to press Miley for more information, but Price said she was not given any further explanation.
As the contempt case unfolded, Pitaro was the first to meet with Miley in chambers, while MacArthur waited in the courtroom with his supporters.
Pitaro came back into the courtroom and went with MacArthur to a nearby witness room for a private discussion for a couple of minutes. Both men then walked back to Miley's chambers.
About 10 minutes later, Pitaro came into the courtroom by himself, saying "I'm done." He would not comment further as he left the courtroom.
Observers speculated that MacArthur might have resolved the contempt issue by apologizing to the judge in chambers. But nobody connected to the case, including Pitaro, who did not return phone calls later in the day, would confirm it.
This is the second time in less than six months that MacArthur has faced contempt proceedings.
And it is the latest in a series of courtroom clashes involving the defense lawyer, who once wrote on his MySpace page that he had a habit of "breaking my foot off in a prosecutor's ass."
In late September, District Judge Susan Johnson held MacArthur in contempt and fined him $500 for refusing to defend a client at a criminal child abuse trial.
Johnson also ordered MacArthur to pay the district attorney's office $7,060 for the time prosecutors spent preparing for the trial and she reported his conduct to the State Bar of Nevada.
MacArthur later asked the Nevada Supreme Court to overturn the order, saying it violated his due process rights and was "unduly burdensome." The matter is on hold while the high court intervenes.
The State Bar is considering disciplinary action against MacArthur for his conduct in another criminal case.
The district attorney's office asked the bar in December to investigate whether MacArthur tried to bribe a witness in the case to change his testimony. Prosecutors considered taking the allegations to a grand jury but chose instead to let the bar sort things out first.
MacArthur's MySpace comments in 2007 cost him his job as a substitute judge in North Las Vegas Justice Court after then-District Attorney David Roger complained about the remarks.
Contact Jeff German at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-8135.