The day a drunken woman judge was hauled from court for kissing a solicitor
14th January 2009
A district judge drunk on brandy had to be escorted from court after forcibly kissing a solicitor and swearing at officials, a tribunal heard yesterday.
The judge, Esther Cunningham, 54, had been in court as a solicitor to represent a relative on a charge under the Dangerous Dogs Act.
Yesterday she sobbed as she was suspended from practising as a solicitor for six months after admitting bringing her profession into disrepute.
George Marriott, for the Solicitors’ Regulatory Authority, described the astonishing courtroom scenes to the tribunal.
‘The respondent forcibly kissed another solicitor and aggressively demanded to know the identity of other people within in the courtroom,’ he said.
‘She behaved as if drunk and refused to sit down until encouraged to do so by her assistant.
‘She interrupted the magistrates whilst they gave their ruling and was escorted out of the court by a security guard.’
Once outside Grantham Magistrates Court in Lincolnshire, Cunningham unleashed a four-letter tirade at an usher when he refused to give her the magistrates’ names, and called the prosecutor an obscene name.
She initially claimed she had been taking migraine drugs which made her sway and that she had an illness that made her breath smell of alcohol.
She also brushed off swearing at the prosecutor, arguing he had ‘been called worse things’.
Cunningham even denied acting as a solicitor during the November 2006 hearing, claiming she had merely popped in ‘to see what was going on’.
Yesterday the Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal in London heard the deputy district judge, who adjudicates largely on civil matters in Lincolnshire, now accepts she had a drink problem and admitted bringing her profession-into disrepute.
The tribunal also heard that six months later, Cunningham appeared drunk while teaching on a two-day legal training course.
Initially Cunningham, who has practised law since 1980 and runs a firm from her home in Grantham, claimed she merely had an ‘outgoing personality’ and ‘bold’ teaching style.
But her solicitor Richard Nelson told the tribunal: ‘She is ashamed and very apologetic. This is the beginning of the final stage of her humiliation.’
Mr Nelson said his client had personal problems and had been in an abusive relationship, adding of the 2006 incident: ‘She acknowledges that in order to fortify herself she had some brandy.’
Ordering Cunningham to pay