Prominent Philly lawyer taken into custody in courthouse scuffle
Center City lawyer Clifford E. Haines, the former head of the Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Bar Associations, was taken into custody this week after a scuffle in Philadelphia’s Criminal Justice Center in which he allegedly hit a sheriff’s deputy, but the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has decided not to file criminal charges.
The incident in the lobby of the city’s criminal courthouse at 13th and Filbert Streets, which was captured on surveillance video, took place Monday morning, when the lobby is usually filled with tense and confused people checking their cellphones and wending their way through security scanners to get to court appointments.
Barbara Grant, spokeswoman for the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Department, said that Haines, 72, got into a dispute with a sheriff’s deputy and that “Mr. Haines hit the deputy. It took a couple of officers to subdue him, and he was apprehended and detained.”
Cameron Kline, spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office, confirmed that the incident was referred to the office for investigation and possible prosecution.
“Our office declined to charge [Haines] after reviewing the evidence and a video of the incident,” Kline said.
Haines, whose shoulder was broken when he was taken to the floor and subdued, was not available for comment.
Although Haines’ legal practice is civil litigation, he was at the Criminal Justice Center for a hearing before Judge Roxanne Covington involving client Arthur “Larry” Melton, 73, former principal of Edward W. Bok Technical High School, who is scheduled for trial next month on criminal charges for allegedly cheating on standardized test scores evaluating student learning.
According to court records, “as of 11:30 a.m., [Haines] failed to appear for call of case due to sheriff’s confiscation of his phone in the lobby.”
Grant said the Sheriff’s Department was considering a request by the Inquirer and Daily News to release the incident report and video. Kline said the District Attorney’s Office would not release its copy of the video.
Haines, a former city prosecutor, started his own firm, Haines & Associates, in 2004. He was chancellor of the 13,000-member Philadelphia Bar Association in 1997 and president of the Pennsylvania Bar Association in 2009-10. Haines is former board chairman of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, a bipartisan nonprofit seeking the merit selection of state appellate judges.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly described Haines as the current board chairman of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts.