Lawyer sentenced to 10 days in jail

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Bruner can avoid incarceration by paying fine on time

By Damon Lawrence

A three-judge panel of the Court of Criminal Appeals found Roane County attorney Spence Bruner in contempt of court on Tuesday.
“We just feel obligated,” Judge Joseph M. Tipton said. “There’s been such a long time of just willful neglect of your responsibility to this court.”
Bruner was ordered to serve 10 days in jail, pay a $50 fine and court costs.
The jail time will be suspended if he pays the fine and costs within 30 days.
Bruner must also file a brief or a signed notice of dismissal by his client on the appellate matter within 10 days.
“If something happens that causes you a problem, you better seek an audience with this court,” Judge D. Kelly Thomas Jr. warned. “Because if you don’t, you’re going to be in jail for 10 days.”
The court issued a warrant for Bruner’s arrest after he failed to show up for a hearing on Sept. 18.
He was arrested on Sept. 26 and released on a $5,000 bond. 
Tuesday’s hearing at the state appellate court building in downtown Knoxville was to determine whether Bruner should be held in contempt.
Thomas, Tipton and Judge Thomas T. Woodall didn’t couch their dissatisfaction with Bruner.
“Why did you not appear in this court in September?” Tipton asked.
“That failure was my fault and my office’s fault,” Bruner responded.
He also blamed his no-show n family matters.
“I had just had a baby on Aug. 9,” Bruner said. “He spent a week of his life in ICU. I also had a 14-month-old son who I was taking care of during that time.”
Bruner said he wasn’t in his office much in August, but the judges didn’t accept that as an excuse.
“What about March, April, May, June and July?” Tipton asked. “There have been several orders of this court directing you to do certain things, which were not done.”
Woodall pointed out that a court clerk contacted Bruner’s office on July 13 and advised that an affidavit was needed for a motion Bruner filed, but he didn’t comply.
“That was before your child was born,” Woodall said.
An order was sent to Bruner’s office in August directing him to appear in court on Sept. 18.
Bruner said he thought it was a deadline and not a court date.
“When did you look at the order telling you to be in court on Sept. 18?” Woodall asked.
“I know I looked at it on Sept. 19,” Bruner said.
“It appears to me you really don’t know what happened,” Thomas said. “You don’t know how that order got ignored.”
“Honestly, I’m not sure,” Bruner said.
At one point during the hearing, Tipton asked Bruner if he was taking any medication.
“No, sir,” Bruner responded. “I didn’t sleep last night. I’ve been very nervous about this hearing.”