KANSAS CITY, Mo. (CN) – An attorney may face federal contempt charges for contacting jurors who ruled against his client in a civil rights case. James Ensz sent a questionnaire to the jurors this month after representing a Lee’s Summit police officer, court records indicate.
Ensz represented Lee’s Summit Police Officer Richard McKinley, who was sued for allegedly conspiring to arrest Theodore White on trumped-up child molestation charges. The jury awarded White $16 million after White spent 5 years in prison before being acquitted.
White claimed McKinley hid evidence and covered up an affair he had with White’s estranged wife, whom McKinley later married.
In the questionnaire, Ensz asked jurors whether they found certain witnesses credible, how much certain pieces of evidence affected their decision, whether they felt the judge favored one side or the other, and asked for specific examples of favoritism and how it affected the verdict.
Court documents show that U.S. District Judge Nancy Laughrey held a telephone conference with attorneys to discuss the questionnaire.
“The court informed Mr. Ensz that it is inappropriate to send out correspondence to the jury … A party must obtain permission from the court in advance of contacting any juror,” the meeting’s minutes state.
Judge Laughrey has scheduled an Oct. 14 contempt hearing for Ensz.
Ensz defended his actions in a memo requesting that the hearing be canceled.
“There is nothing inappropriate about the questions asked, nor is there any pressure placed upon jurors to respond to the questionnaire should they choose not to respond,” Ensz wrote.
There is no set penalty for Ensz if he is found guilty of contempt, but federal guidelines allow fines and jail time.