HANFORD - Local attorney Michelle Winspur, who was barred from practicing law on Jan. 6, is now facing criminal charges in Kings County Superior Court for showing up to work intoxicated.
Winspur, 45, made headlines in December when she failed to appear on her client's behalf in the highly publicized Denise McVay murder case.
Now the Kings County District Attorney's Office has filed charges against her for drunken driving and appearing in court while under the influence of a controlled substance.
On Thursday, a lawyer representing her pleaded not guilty to the charges. She did not appear herself, Chief Deputy District Attorney Larry Crouch said, because she apparently checked herself into rehab.
Winspur is now scheduled to appear in court for a pretrial hearing on March 9.
The accusations stem from two incidents late last year in which Winspur appeared in court while exhibiting signs of being intoxicated.
The initial incident happened on Oct. 7. Winspur was scheduled to give a final argument in a jury trial, Crouch said, but contacted court officials and explained that she would be late, The clerk of the court was notified that she sounded drunk on the phone.
When she arrived, she was asked to take a blood-alcohol test and was measured at more than twice the legal limit.
In the second incident, Winspur showed up to court on Dec. 8 while showing signs of having used a controlled substance. She was taken into custody after leaving the courtroom and later released from custody.
The next day, she was scheduled to represent Jose Saldana, the 17-year-old charged with murdering Denise McVay, in his ongoing preliminary hearing. Her absence delayed proceedings while another attorney was brought in to advise Saldana of his rights.
Winspur was also under investigation by the State Bar for allegedly representing a client while under the influence of alcohol in Monterey County in May 2010. As a result, a judge ruled this month that Winspur is ineligible to practice law in California for now.
A new attorney, Laurence Meyer, was appointed to take over the Saldana case.
Now, while facing criminal charges, Winspur's conduct during recent defense cases may be called into question by the very people she was asked to represent.
"If her clients felt that they were getting inadequate representation, they should have brought it to our attention," Crouch said. "We believe we addressed the situation before it became a problem for any of her clients or their cases."
The reporter can be reached at 583-2425 or jjohnson@HanfordSentinel.com.