Lawyer Sues State Trooper Over Alleged Defamation

Court Order Soughtto Bar Future Comment On Attorney

April 15, 1992|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff writer

A Westminster defense attorney is seeking more than $1 million from a state trooper who she says described her as incompetent to practicelaw.

In a suit filed last month in Carroll Circuit Court, North Court Street lawyer Coleen S. Clemente said Tfc. Richard Wolfe of the Westminster barracks told several of her clients that she "does not know what she is doing regarding the provision of legal services."

Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. heard testimony yesterday to determinewhether a court order would be issued barring Wolfe from making statements to anyone about Clemente before a jury trial can be heldon the civil allegations.

A 10-day order issued April 1 by Beck expired Saturday, and Clemente was in court yesterday seeking an orderto extend it indefinitely.

Wolfe has denied ever making defamatory statements about Clemente or any other lawyer, and his attorney, Assistant Attorney General Mark H. Bowen, argued that such a court order is unnecessary because he doesn't make those types of statements.

In testimony during the hearing, a client of Clemente's -- whom Wolfe arrested March 26 on charges of filing a false accident report andviolating traffic ordinances -- said the trooper told him he "made afoolish mistake" in hiring the lawyer.

Speaking in a faint voice,Charles Glover, a 19-year-old city resident whose first contact withWolfe was to report an acci

dent he was involved in last December, said Wolfe told him he "should choose his attorney better" and that"she wasn't a very good lawyer."

Glover was charged with driving while intoxicated in the December accident; he was found not guilty of those charges on March 10.

Michelle Honeycut, another of Clemente's clients and a friend of Glover's, said Wolfe was abrupt, rude andabrasive to her when he asked her to come to the barracks to answer some questions.

"He said that maybe I should find a new lawyer, that she was a bad lawyer," she said. "He was upsetting me on the phone. He was very angry."

Wolfe took the stand and denied ever making such statements to either Glover or Honeycut.

In response to questions from Bowen, the trooper detailed his account of the December accident, the arrest of Glover in March and his conversations with Honeycut.

Occasionally wiping his brow, Wolfe said he never talked to either of them about lawyers, except to tell Glover he had the right to one, and that Clemente was waiting for him when they arrived at thebarracks.

And the trooper countered Honeycut's testimony that he said she did not have the right to an attorney during his questioning.

"Since she was not under arrest, and she was not in any trouble,I told her that she was not going to be entitled to a court-appointed lawyer."

In her closing arguments, Clemente said the judge's decision is one of credibility.

"I certainly do think that it would be naive to assume Trooper Wolfe would come in here and say that he said these statements," she told Beck.

"I find it offensive that Trooper Wolfe, as a state trooper, would say things like that."

Afterthe hearing, Bowen said that a court order against Wolfe is unnecessary and would harm his livelihood.

"If he did nothing wrong -- andwe say he did nothing wrong -- why should he be subject to the court's authority barring him from doing something he doesn't do?" Bowen said.

"This whole case comes down to who you believe."

Beck willissue a decision before the end of the week.

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