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Ohio Attorney Sanctioned for Vaping at Trial

The case is Diana Cranfield v. Costco Wholesale Corp., in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, where an Ohio federal magistrate judge fined an attorney close to $1,900. In addition, he was ordered to pay several hundred dollars in attorneys’ fees due to his vaping in court multiple times during a trial in November. The attorney said his actions were caused by his nicotine addiction.

Judge Henderson told attorney David W. Neel that she felt that his use of his vape pen during the trial was done in bad faith. The judge said “When the court was reviewing the security footage inside the courtroom, … it showed Mr. Neel turning around and looking to [see] when court personnel had walked away from him on one occasion before he pulled the vaporizer out of his pocket…” And then it also showed Mr. Neel putting the vaporizer into his pocket as I was entering the courtroom.” Judge Henderson also stated that “Despite all traditional common sense that says that smoking in a courtroom is wholly prohibited and inappropriate, it has come to the court’s attention by multiple sources, including court personnel, that attorney David Neel was observed on multiple occasions vaping in this courtroom.”

Mr. Neel was fined $300 for each of the six days he vaped. The judge also ordered him to pay $250 for the half-hour spent hearing the vape issue which is to be paid to the opposing lawyers at Seyfarth Shaw LLP, plus another $93 for the three hours it took court security to investigate and review footage.

Attorney Neel represented Diana Cranfield, who filed a lawsuit against her employer, Costco Wholesale Corp., in 2020, alleging disability discrimination, race discrimination, and retaliation claims.

Mr. Neel said he’s visited a therapist and is working to quit his addiction to nicotine.

USA Herald by Samuel Lopez, December 4, 2022

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