Breaking News: Kraska v. Clark, et al. (M.D.Pa. 11/05/2014) (Click Here)


Man thrown in jail for looking at a judge the wrong way during a break in a civil trial

Complaint Filed 11-5-14        Exhibit A Filed 11-5-14

HARRISBURG (Nov. 5, 2014) – Michael J. Kraska, of Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, filed a Complaint in federal court today against Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas Senior Judge Lawrence F. Clark, Jr., for throwing him in jail simply for looking at Judge Clark the wrong way. Also included in the Complaint are as-yet identified Dauphin County Sheriff’s Office personnel, the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, and Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. Kraska alleges that his civil rights were violated on January 29, 2013, during a break in the civil case of Sheila A. Keiter v. Upper Dauphin County Emergency Services, Inc., a/k/a “Medic 6”, No. 2003-cv-3915.  Kraska is represented by civil rights attorney Devon M. Jacob of Jacob Litigation.

During the civil trial in which Kraska was testifying as a witness, Judge Clark became offended when Kraska looked over at him for guidance during a break in the questioning. The transcript reveals that Judge Clark stated, “Can I help you? Don’t you dare sit there and stare at me,” before pushing his alarm button and summoning the yet-to-be-identified deputy sheriffs to take Kraska into custody.  When a lone deputy sheriff arrived, Judge Clark insisted on other deputies being summoned to the courtroom.  Upon their arrival, Judge Clark directed the deputies to escort Kraska from the witness stand.

Judge Clark then stated, “Let me just tell you, fella, you do not sit in the witness chair in my courtroom and glare at me with the contempt that you had in your face towards this Court. That just does not happen,” before directing the deputies to “take him for a little walk. Show him the basement cells, so he’ll understand where he’ll be if he engages in this kind of disrespect in this courtroom again.”  The deputies then locked Kraska in a holding cell during the lunch break where he was taunted and threatened by other inmates. After the lunch break, Judge Clark stated, “We didn’t think it arose to the level of holding him [Kraska] in criminal contempt, but we did think that it was of a significant enough circumstance that we ought to have the benefit of having a discussion with law enforcement and maybe a tour of the courthouse facilities, so that he didn’t get himself in any deeper situation.”

“Having citizens locked in jail cells without due process for committing contempt of ego is neither a function of the judiciary nor within the scope of authority vested in Judge Clark,” said Jacob. “Unfortunately, neither the Administrative Offices of the Pennsylvania Courts, nor Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, have intervened to correct Judge Clark’s embarrassing behavior. Instead, County officials have not only condoned his conduct, they have participated in it,” Jacob remarked, referencing a prior incident wherein Dauphin County sheriff deputies threw a person’s cellphone out of a 5th story window at Clark’s request, and Judge Clark having recently been appointed to senior judge status.

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