The Contempt Power
Categories of Contempt.

Crucial to an understanding of the history of the law governing the courts’ powers of contempt is an awareness of the various kinds of contempt. With a few notable exceptions,185 the Court has consistently distinguished between criminal and civil contempt, the former being a vindication of the authority of the courts and latter being the preservation and enforcement of the rights of the parties. A civil contempt has been traditionally viewed as the refusal of a person in a civil case to obey a mandatory order. It is incomplete in nature, may be purged by obedience to the court order, and does not involve a sentence for a definite period of time. The classic criminal contempt is one where the act of contempt has been completed, punishment is imposed to vindicate the authority of the court, and a person cannot by subsequent action purge himself of such contempt.186

The issue of whether a certain contempt is civil or criminal can be of great importance. For instance, criminal contempt, unlike civil contempt, implicates procedural rights attendant to prosecutions.187 Or, in Ex parte Grossman,188 while holding that the President may pardon a criminal contempt, Chief Justice Taft noted in dicta that such pardon power did not extend to civil contempt. Notwithstanding the importance of distinguishing between the two, there have been instances where defendants have been charged with both civil and criminal contempt for the same act.189

Long-standing doctrine regarding how courts should distinguish between civil and criminal contempt remains influential. In Shillitani v. United States,190 defendants were sentenced by their respective District Courts to two years imprisonment for contempt of court, but the sentences contained a purge clause providing for the unconditional release of the contemnors upon agreeing to testify before a grand jury. On appeal, the Supreme Court held that the defendants were in civil contempt, notwithstanding their sentence for a definite period of time, on the grounds that the test for determining whether the contempt is civil or criminal is what the court primarily seeks to accomplish by imposing sentence.191 Here, the purpose was to obtain answers to the questions for the grand jury, and the court provided for the defendants’ release upon compliance; whereas, “a criminal contempt proceeding would be characterized by the imposition of an unconditional sentence for punishment or deterence.”192

In International Union, UMW v. Bagwell,193 however, the Court formulated a new test for drawing the distinction between civil and criminal contempt in certain cases. Henceforth, the imposition of non-compensatory contempt fines for the violation of any complex injunction will require criminal proceedings. This case, as have so many, involved the imposition of large fines (here, $52 million) upon a union in a strike situation for violations of an elaborate court injunction restraining union activity during the strike. The Court was vague with regard to the standards for determining when a court order is “complex” and thus requires the protection of criminal proceedings.194

The Court has also recognized a second, but more subtle distinction between types of contempt, and that is the difference between direct and indirect contempt. Direct contempt results when the contumacious act is committed “in the presence of the Court or so near thereto as to obstruct the administration of justice,”195 while indirect contempt is behavior that the Court did not itself witness.196 The nature of the contumacious act, i.e., whether it is direct or indirect, is important because it determines the appropriate procedure for charging the contemnor. As will be seen in the following discussion, the history of the contempt powers of the American judiciary is marked by two trends: a shrinking of the court’s power to punish a person summarily and a multiplying of the due process requirements that must otherwise be met when finding an individual to be in contempt.197

The Act of 1789.

The summary power of the courts of the United States to punish contempts of their authority had its origin in the law and practice of England where disobedience of court orders was regarded as contempt of the King himself and attachment was a prerogative process derived from presumed contempt of the sovereign.198 By the latter part of the eighteenth century, summary power to punish was extended to all contempts whether committed in or out of court.199 In the United States, the Judiciary Act of 1789200 conferred power on all courts of the United States “to punish by fine or imprisonment, at the discretion of said courts, all contempts of authority in any cause or hearing before the same.” The only limitation placed on this power was that summary attachment was made a negation of all other modes of punishment. The abuse of this extensive power led, following the unsuccessful impeachment of Judge James H. Peck of the Federal District Court of Missouri, to the passage of the Act of 1831 limiting the power of the federal courts to punish contempts to misbehavior in the presence of the courts, “or so near thereto as to obstruct the administration of justice,” to the misbehavior of officers of courts in their official capacity, and to disobedience or resistance to any lawful writ, process or order of the court.201

An Inherent Power.

The nature of the contempt power was described Justice Field, writing for the Court in Ex parte Robinson,202 sustaining the act of 1831: “The power to punish for contempts is inherent in all courts; its existence is essential to the preservation of order in judicial proceedings, and to the enforcement of the judgments, orders, and writs of the courts, and consequently to the due administration of justice. The moment the courts of the United States were called into existence and invested with jurisdiction over any subject, they became possessed of this power.” Expressing doubts concerning the validity of the act as to the Supreme Court, he declared, however, that there could be no question of its validity as applied to the lower courts on the ground that they are created by Congress and that their “powers and duties depend upon the act calling them into existence, or subsequent acts extending or limiting their jurisdiction.”203 With the passage of time, later adjudications, especially after 1890, came to place more emphasis on the inherent power of courts to punish contempts than upon the power of Congress to regulate summary attachment.

By 1911, the Court was saying that the contempt power must be exercised by a court without referring the issues of fact or law to another tribunal or to a jury in the same tribunal.204 In Michaelson v. United States,205 the Court intentionally placed a narrow interpretation upon those sections of the Clayton Act206 relating to punishment for contempt of court by disobedience of injunctions in labor disputes. The sections in question provided for a jury upon the demand of the accused in contempt cases in which the acts committed in violation of district court orders also constituted a crime under the laws of the United States or of those of the state where they were committed. Although Justice Sutherland reaffirmed earlier rulings establishing the authority of Congress to regulate the contempt power, he went on to qualify this authority and declared that “the attributes which inhere in the power [to punish contempt] and are inseparable from it can neither be abrogated nor rendered practically inoperative.” The Court mentioned specifically “the power to deal summarily with contempt committed in the presence of the courts or so near thereto as to obstruct the administration of justice,” and the power to enforce mandatory decrees by coercive means.207 This latter power, to enforce, the Court has held, includes the authority to appoint private counsel to prosecute a criminal contempt.208 Although the contempt power may be inherent, it is not unlimited. In Spallone v. United States,209 the Court held that a district court had abused its discretion by imposing contempt sanctions on individual members of a city council for refusing to vote to implement a consent decree remedying housing discrimination by the city. The proper remedy, the Court indicated, was to proceed first with contempt sanctions against the city, and only if that course failed should it proceed against the council members individually.

First Amendment Limitations on the Contempt Power.

The phrase, “in the presence of the Court or so near thereto as to obstruct the administration of justice,” was interpreted so broadly in Toledo Newspaper Co. v. United States210 as to uphold the action of a district court judge in punishing a newspaper for contempt for publishing spirited editorials and cartoons issues raised in an action challenging a street railway’s rates. A majority of the Court held that the test to be applied in determining the obstruction of the administration of justice is not the actual obstruction resulting from an act, but “the character of the act done and its direct tendency to prevent and obstruct the discharge of judicial duty.” Similarly, the test whether a particular act is an attempt to influence or intimidate a court is not the influence exerted upon the mind of a particular judge but “the reasonable tendency of the acts done to influence or bring about the baleful result . . . without reference to the consideration of how far they may have been without influence in a particular case.”211 In Craig v. Hecht,212 these criteria were applied to sustain the imprisonment of the comptroller of New York City for writing and publishing a letter to a public service commissioner criticizing the action of a United States district judge in receivership proceedings.

The decision in Toledo Newspaper, however, did not follow earlier decisions interpreting the act of 1831 and was grounded on historical error. For these reasons, it was reversed in Nye v. United States,213 and the theory of constructive contempt based on the “reasonable tendency” rule was rejected. The defendants in the civil suit, by persuasion and the use of liquor, had induced a plaintiff feeble in mind and body to ask for dismissal of the suit he had brought against them. The events in the episode occurred more than 100 miles from where the court was sitting and were held not to put the persons responsible for them in contempt of court. Although Nye v. United States was exclusively a case of statutory construction, it was significant from a constitutional point of view because its reasoning was contrary to that of earlier cases narrowly construing the act of 1831 and asserting broad inherent powers of courts to punish contempts independently of, and contrary to, congressional regulation of this power. Bridges v. California214 was noteworthy for the dictum of the majority that the contempt power of all courts, federal as well as state, is limited by the guaranty of the First Amendment against interference with freedom of speech or of the press.215

A series of cases involving highly publicized trials and much news media attention and exploitation,216 however, caused the Court to suggest that the contempt and other powers of trial courts should be used to stem the flow of publicity before it can taint a trial. Thus, Justice Clark, speaking for the majority in Sheppard v. Maxwell,217 wrote, “If publicity during the proceedings threatens the fairness of the trial, a new trial should be ordered. But we must remember that reversals are but palliatives; the cure lies in those remedial measures that will prevent the prejudice at its inception. . . . Neither prosecutors, counsel for defense, the accused, witness, court staff nor law enforcement officers coming under the jurisdiction of the court should be permitted to frustrate its function. Collaboration between counsel and the press as to information affecting the fairness of a criminal trial is not only subject to regulation, but is highly censurable and worthy of disciplinary measures.” Though the regulation the Justice had in mind was presumably to be of the parties and related persons rather than of the press, the potential for conflict with the First Amendment is obvious, as well as is the necessity for protection of the equally important right to a fair trial.218

Due Process Limitations on Contempt Power: Right to Notice and to a Hearing Versus Summary Punishment.

Misbehavior in the course of a trial may be punished summarily by the trial judge. In Ex parte Terry,219 the Court denied habeas corpus relief to a litigant who had been jailed for assaulting a United States marshal in the presence of the court. In Cooke v. United States,220 however, the Court remanded for further proceedings a judgment jailing an attorney and his client for presenting the judge a letter which impugned his impartiality with respect to their case, still pending before him. Distinguishing the case from that of Terry, Chief Justice Taft, speaking for the unanimous Court, said: “The important distinction . . . is that this contempt was not in open court. . . . To preserve order in the court room for the proper conduct of business, the court must act instantly to suppress disturbance or violence or physical obstruction or disrespect to the court when occurring in open court. There is no need of evidence or assistance of counsel before punishment, because the court has seen the offense. Such summary vindication of the court’s dignity and authority is necessary. It has always been so in the courts of the common law and the punishment imposed is due process of law.”221

As to the timeliness of summary punishment, the Court, in Sacher v. United States,222 at first construed Rule 42(a) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which was designed to afford judges clearer guidelines as to the exercise of their contempt power, to allow “the trial judge, upon the occurrence in his presence of a contempt, immediately and summarily to punish it, if, in his opinion, delay will prejudice the trial. We hold, on the other hand, that if he believes the exigencies of the trial require that he defer judgment until its completion he may do so without extinguishing his power.”223 Subsequently, however, interpreting the Due Process Clause and thus binding both federal and state courts, the Court held that, although the trial judge may summarily and without notice or hearing punish contemptuous conduct committed in his presence and observed by him, if he does choose to wait until the conclusion of the proceeding, he must afford the alleged contemnor at least reasonable notice of the specific charge and opportunity to be heard in his own defense. Apparently, a “full scale trial” is not contemplated.224

Curbing the judge’s power to consider conduct as occurring in his presence, the Court, in Harris v. United States,225 held that summary contempt proceedings in aid of a grand jury probe, achieved through swearing the witness and repeating the grand jury’s questions in the presence of the judge, did not constitute contempt “in the actual presence of the court” for purposes of Rule 42(a); rather, the absence of a disturbance in the court’s proceedings or of the need to immediately vindicate the court’s authority makes the witness’ refusal to testify an offense punishable only after notice and a hearing.226 Moreover, when it is not clear that the judge was fully aware of the contemptuous behavior when it occurred, notwithstanding the fact that it occurred during the trial, “a fair hearing would entail the opportunity to show that the version of the event related to the judge was inaccurate, misleading, or incomplete.”227

Due Process Limitations on Contempt Power: Right to Jury Trial.

Originally, the right to a jury trial was not available in crimi- nal contempt cases.228 But the Court held in Cheff v. Schnackenberg,229 that a defendant is entitled to trial by jury when the punishment in a criminal contempt case in federal court is more than the sentence for a petty offense, traditionally six months. Although the ruling was made pursuant to the Supreme Court’s supervisory powers and was thus inapplicable to state courts and presumably subject to legislative revision, two years later the Court held that the Constitution also requires jury trials in criminal contempt cases in which the offense was more than a petty one.230 Whether an offense is petty or not is determined by the maximum sentence authorized by the legislature or, in the absence of a statute, by the sentence actually imposed. Again the Court drew the line between petty offenses and more serious ones at six months’ imprisonment. Although this case involved an indirect criminal contempt (willful petitioning to admit to probate a will known to be falsely prepared) the majority in dictum indicated that even in cases of direct contempt a jury will be required in appropriate instances. “When a serious contempt is at issue, considerations of efficiency must give way to the more fundamental interest of ensuring the even-handed exercise of judicial power.”231 Presumably, there is no equivalent right to a jury trial in civil contempt cases,232 although one could spend much more time in jail pursuant to a judgment of civil contempt than one could for most criminal contempts.233 The Court has, however, expanded the right to jury trials in federal civil cases on nonconstitutional grounds.234

Due Process Limitations on Contempt Powers: Impartial Tribunal.

In Cooke v. United States,235 Chief Justice Taft uttered some cautionary words to guide trial judges in the use of their contempt powers. “The power of contempt which a judge must have and exercise in protecting the due and orderly administration of justice and in maintaining the authority and dignity of the court is most important and indispensable. But its exercise is a delicate one and care is needed to avoid arbitrary or oppressive conclusions. This rule of caution is more mandatory where the contempt charged has in it the element of personal criticism or attack upon the judge. The judge must banish the slightest personal impulse to reprisal, but he should not bend backward and injure the authority of the court by too great leniency. The substitution of another judge would avoid either tendency but it is not always possible. Of course where acts of contempt are palpably aggravated by a personal attack upon the judge in order to drive the judge out of the case for ulterior reasons, the scheme should not be permitted to succeed. But attempts of this kind are rare. All of such cases, however, present difficult questions for the judge. All we can say upon the whole matter is that where conditions do not make it impracticable, or where the delay may not injure public or private right, a judge called upon to act in a case of contempt by personal attack upon him, may, without flinching from his duty, properly ask that one of his fellow judges take his place. Cornish v. The United States, 299 Fed. 283, 285; Toledo Company v. The United States, 237 Fed. 986, 988. The case before us is one in which the issue between the judge and the parties had come to involve marked personal feeling that did not make for an impartial and calm judicial consideration and conclusion, as the statement of the proceedings abundantly shows.”236

Sacher v. United States237 grew out of a tempestuous trial of eleven Communist Party leaders in which Sacher and others were counsel for the defense. Upon the conviction of the defendants, the trial judge at once found counsel guilty of criminal contempt and imposed jail terms of up to six months. At issue directly was whether the contempt charged was one that the judge was authorized to determine for himself or whether it was one that under Rule 42(b) could be passed upon only by another judge and only after notice and hearing, but behind this issue loomed the applicability and nature of due process requirements, in particular whether the defense attorneys were constitutionally entitled to trial before a different judge. A divided Court affirmed most of the convictions, set aside others, and denied that due process required a hearing before a different judge. “We hold that Rule 42 allows the trial judge, upon the occurrence in his presence of a contempt, immediately and summarily to punish it, if, in his opinion, delay will prejudice the trial. We hold, on the other hand, that if he believes the exigencies of the trial require that he defer judgment until its completion, he may do so without extinguishing his power. . . . We are not unaware or unconcerned that persons identified with unpopular causes may find it difficult to enlist the counsel of their choice. But we think it must be ascribed to causes quite apart from fear of being held in contempt, for we think few effective lawyers would regard the tactics condemned here as either necessary or helpful to a successful defense. That such clients seem to have thought these tactics necessary is likely to contribute to the bar’s reluctance to appear for them rather more than fear of contempt. But that there may be no misunderstanding, we make clear that this Court, if its aid be needed, will unhesitatingly protect counsel in fearless, vigorous and effective performance of every duty pertaining to the office of the advocate on behalf of any person whatsoever. But it will not equate contempt with courage or insults with independence. It will also protect the processes of orderly trial, which is the supreme object of the lawyer’s calling.”238

In Offutt v. United States,239 acting under its supervisory powers over the lower federal courts, the Court set aside a criminal contempt conviction imposed on a lawyer after a trial marked by highly personal recriminations between the trial judge and the lawyer. In a situation in which the record revealed that the contumacious conduct was the product of both lack of self-restraint on the part of the contemnor and a reaction to the excessive zeal and personal animosity of the trial judge, the majority felt that any contempt trial must be held before another judge. This holding, that when a judge becomes personally embroiled in the controversy with an accused he must defer trial of his contempt citation to another judge, which was founded on the Court’s supervisory powers, was constitutionalized in Mayberry v. Pennsylvania,240 in which a defendant acting as his own counsel engaged in quite personal abuse of the trial judge. The Court appeared to leave open the option of the trial judge to act immediately and summarily to quell contempt by citing and convicting an offender, thus empowering the judge to keep the trial going,241 but if he should wait until the conclusion of the trial he must defer to another judge.

Contempt by Disobedience of Orders.

Disobedience of in- junctive orders, particularly in labor disputes, has been a fruitful source of cases dealing with contempt of court. In United States v. United Mine Workers,242 the Court held, first, that disobedience of a temporary restraining order issued for the purpose of maintaining existing conditions, pending the determination of the court’s jurisdiction, is punishable as criminal contempt where the issue is not frivolous, but substantial.243 Second, the Court held that an order issued by a court with jurisdiction over the subject matter and person must be obeyed by the parties until it is reversed by orderly and proper proceedings, even though the statute under which the order is issued is unconstitutional.244 Third, on the basis of United States v. Shipp,245 the Court held that violations of a court’s order are punishable as criminal contempt, even if the order is set aside on appeal as in excess of the court’s jurisdiction and even if the basic action has become moot.246 Finally, the Court held that conduct can amount to both civil and criminal contempt, and the same acts may justify a court in resorting to coercive and punitive measures, which may be imposed in a single proceeding.247

Contempt Power in Aid of Administrative Power.

Proceedings to enforce the orders of administrative agencies and subpoenas issued by them to appear and produce testimony have become increasingly common since the leading case of ICC v. Brimson,248 which held that the contempt power of the courts might by statutory authorization be used to aid the Interstate Commerce Commission in enforcing compliance with its orders. In 1947 a proceeding to enforce a subpoena duces tecum issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission during the course of an investigation was ruled to be civil in character on the ground that the only sanction was a penalty designed to compel obedience. The Court then enunciated the principle that, where a fine or imprisonment imposed on the contemnor is designed to coerce him to do what he has refused to do, the proceeding is one for civil contempt.249 Notwithstanding the power of administrative agencies to cite an individual for contempt, however, such bodies must be acting within the authority that has been lawfully delegated to them.250

Footnotes

185
E.g., United States v. United Mine Workers, 330 U.S. 258 (1947). [Back to text]
186
Gompers v. Bucks Stove & Range Co., 221 U.S. 418, 441–443 (1911); Ex parte Grossman, 267 U.S. 87 (1925). See also Bessette v. W.B. Conkey Co., 194 U.S. 324, 327–328 (1904). [Back to text]
187
In Robertson v. United States ex rel. Watson, the Court had granted certiorari to consider a District of Columbia law that allowed a private individual to bring a criminal contempt action in the congressionally established D.C. courts based on a violation of a civil protective order. 560 U.S. ___, No. 08–6261, slip op. (2010). The Court subsequently issued a per curiam order dismissing the writ of certiorari as having been improvidently granted, but four Justices dissented. Writing in dissent, Chief Justice Roberts thought it imperative to make clear that “[t]he terrifying force of the criminal justice system may only be brought to bear against an individual by society as a whole, through a prosecution brought of behalf of the government.” 560 U.S. ___, No. 08–6261, slip op. at 1 (2010) (Roberts, C.J., dissenting). Of particular concern was how various protections in the Bill of Rights against government action would play out in a privately brought action. Id. at 5–6. [Back to text]
188
267 U.S. 87, 119–120 (1925). In an analogous case, the Court was emphatic in a dictum that Congress cannot require a jury trial where the contemnor has failed to perform a positive act for the relief of private parties, Michaelson v. United States ex rel. Chicago, S.P., M. & Ry. Co., 266 U.S. 42, 65–66 (1924). But see Bloom v. Illinois, 391 U.S. 194, 202 (1968). [Back to text]
189
See United States v. United Mine Workers, 330 U.S. 258, 299 (1947). [Back to text]
190
384 U.S. 364 (1966). [Back to text]
191
384 U.S. at 370. [Back to text]
192
384 U.S. at 370 n.6. See Hicks v. Feiock, 485 U.S. 624 (1988) (remanding for determination whether payment of child support arrearages would purge a determinate sentence, the proper characterization critical to decision on a due process claim). [Back to text]
193
512 U.S. 821 (1994). [Back to text]
194
512 U.S. at 832–38. Relevant is the fact that the alleged contempts did not occur in the presence of the court and that determinations of violations require elaborate and reliable fact-finding. See esp. id. at 837–38. [Back to text]
195
Act of March 2, 1831, ch. 99, § 1, 4 Stat. 488. Cf. Rule 42(a), FRCrP, which provides, “A criminal contempt may be punished summarily if the judge certifies that he saw or heard the conduct constituting the contempt and that it was committed in the actual presence of the court.” See also Beale, Contempt of Court, Civil and Criminal, 21 HARV. L. REV. 161, 171–172 (1908). [Back to text]
196
See Fox, The Nature of Contempt of Court, 37 L.Q. REV. 191 (1921). [Back to text]
197
Many of the limitations placed on the inferior federal courts have been issued on the basis of the Supreme Court’s supervisory power over them rather than upon a constitutional foundation, while, of course, the limitations imposed on state courts necessarily are on constitutional dimensions. Indeed, it is often the case that a limitation, which is applied to an inferior federal court as a superintending measure, is then transformed into a constitutional limitation and applied to state courts. Compare Cheff v. Schnackenberg, 384 U.S. 373 (1966), with Bloom v. Illinois, 391 U.S. 194 (1968). In the latter stage, the limitations then bind both federal and state courts alike. Therefore, in this section, Supreme Court constitutional limitations on state court contempt powers are cited without restriction for equal application to federal courts. [Back to text]
198
Fox, The King v. Almon, 24 L.Q. REV. 184, 194–195 (1908). [Back to text]
199
Fox, The Summary Power to Punish Contempt, 25 L.Q. REV. 238, 252 (1909). [Back to text]
200
1 Stat. 83, § 17 (1789). [Back to text]
201
18 U.S.C. § 401. For a summary of the Peck impeachment and the background of the act of 1831, see Frankfurter and Landis, Power of Congress Over Procedure in Criminal Contempts in ‘Inferior’ Federal Courts: A Study in Separation of Powers, 37 HARV. L. REV. 1010, 1024–1028 (1924). [Back to text]
202
86 U.S. (19 Wall.) 505 (1874). [Back to text]
203
86 U.S. at 505–11. [Back to text]
204
Gompers v. Bucks Stove & Range Co., 221 U.S. 418, 450 (1911). See also In re Debs, 158 U.S. 564, 595 (1895). [Back to text]
205
266 U.S. 42 (1924). [Back to text]
206
38 Stat. 730, 738 (1914). [Back to text]
207
266 U.S. at 65–66. See Frankfurter and Landis, Power of Congress Over Procedure in Criminal Contempts in ‘Inferior’ Federal Courts: A Study in Separation of Powers, 37 HARV. L. REV. 1010 (1924). [Back to text]
208
Young v. United States ex rel. Vuitton, 481 U.S. 787, 793–801 (1987). However, the Court, invoking its supervisory power, instructed the lower federal courts first to request the United States Attorney to prosecute a criminal contempt and only if refused should they appoint a private lawyer. Id. at 801–802. Still using its supervisory power, the Court held that the district court had erred in appointing counsel for a party that was the beneficiary of the court order; disinterested counsel had to be appointed. Id. at 802–08. Justice Scalia contended that the power to prosecute is not comprehended within Article III judicial power and that federal judges had no power, inherent or otherwise, to initiate a prosecution for contempt or to appoint counsel to pursue it. Id. at 815. See also United States v. Providence Journal Co., 485 U.S. 693 (1988), which involved the appointment of a disinterested private attorney. The Supreme Court dismissed the writ of certiorari after granting it, however, holding that only the Solicitor General representing the United States could bring the petition to the Court. See 28 U.S.C. § 518. [Back to text]
209
493 U.S. 265 (1990). The decision was an exercise of the Court’s supervisory power. Id. at 276. Four Justices dissented. Id. at 281. [Back to text]
210
247 U.S. 402 (1918). [Back to text]
211
247 U.S. at 418–21. [Back to text]
212
263 U.S. 255 (1923). [Back to text]
213
313 U.S. 33, 47–53 (1941). [Back to text]
214
314 U.S. 252, 260 (1941). [Back to text]
215
See also Wood v. Georgia, 370 U.S. 375 (1962), further clarifying the limitations imposed by the First Amendment upon this judicial power and delineating the requisite serious degree of harm to the administration of law necessary to justify exercise of the contempt power to punish the publisher of an out-of-court statement attacking a charge to the grand jury, absent any showing of actual interference with the activities of the grand jury. It is now clearly established that courtroom conduct to be punishable as contempt “must constitute an imminent, not merely a likely, threat to the administration of justice. The danger must not be remote or even probable; it must immediately imperil.” Craig v. Harney, 331 U.S. 367, 376 (1947); In re Little, 404 U.S. 553, 555 (1972). [Back to text]
216
E.g., Estes v. Texas, 381 U.S. 532 (1965); Marshall v. United States, 360 U.S. 310 (1959); Sheppard v. Maxwell, 384 U.S. 333 (1966). [Back to text]
217
384 U.S. 333, 363 (1966). [Back to text]
218
For another approach, bar rules regulating the speech of counsel and the First Amendment standard, see Gentile v. State Bar of Nevada, 501 U.S. 1030 (1991). [Back to text]
219
128 U.S. 289 (1888). [Back to text]
220
267 U.S. 517 (1925). [Back to text]
221
267 U.S. at 535, 534. [Back to text]
222
343 U.S. 1 (1952). [Back to text]
223
343 U.S. at 11. [Back to text]
224
Taylor v. Hayes, 418 U.S. 488 (1974). In a companion case, the Court observed that, although its rule conceivably encourages a trial judge to proceed immediately rather than awaiting a calmer moment, “[s]ummary convictions during trials that are unwarranted by the facts will not be invulnerable to appellate review.” Codispoti v. Pennsylvania, 418 U.S. 506, 517 (1974). [Back to text]
225
382 U.S. 162 (1965), overruling Brown v. United States, 359 U.S. 41 (1959). [Back to text]
226
But see Green v. United States, 356 U.S. 165 (1958) (noncompliance with order directing defendants to surrender to marshal for execution of their sentence is an offense punishable summarily as a criminal contempt); Reina v. United States, 364 U.S. 507 (1960). [Back to text]
227
Johnson v. Mississippi, 403 U.S. 212, 215 (1971) (citing In re Oliver, 333 U.S. 257, 275–276 (1948)). [Back to text]
228
See Green v. United States, 356 U.S. 165 (1958); United States v. Barnett, 376 U.S. 681 (1964), and cases cited. The dissents of Justices Black and Douglas in those cases prepared the ground for the Court’s later reversal. On the issue, see Frankfurter and Landis, Power of Congress over Procedure in Criminal Contempts in ‘Inferior’ Federal Courts—A Study in Separation of Powers, 37 HARV. L. REV. 1010, 1042–1048 (1924). [Back to text]
229
384 U.S. 373 (1966). [Back to text]
230
Bloom v. Illinois, 391 U.S. 194 (1968). See also International Union, UMW v. Bagwell, 512 U.S. 821 (1994) (refining the test for when contempt citations are criminal and thus require jury trials). [Back to text]
231
391 U.S. at 209. In Codispoti v. Pennsylvania, 418 U.S. 506 (1974), the Court held a jury trial to be required when the trial judge awaits the conclusion of the proceeding and then imposes separate contempt sentences in which the total aggregated more than six months even though no sentence for more than six months was imposed for any single act of contempt. For a tentative essay at defining a petty offense when a fine is levied, see Muniz v. Hoffman, 422 U.S. 454, 475–77 (1975). In International Union, UMW v. Bagwell, 512 U.S. 821, 837 n.5 (1994), the Court continued to reserve the question of the distinction between petty and serious contempt fines, because of the size of the fine in that case. [Back to text]
232
The Sixth Amendment is applicable only to criminal cases and the Seventh to suits at common law, but the due process clause is available if needed. [Back to text]
233
Note that under 28 U.S.C. § 1826 a recalcitrant witness before a grand jury may be imprisoned for the term of the grand jury, which can be 36 months. 18 U.S.C. § 3331(a). [Back to text]
234
E.g., Beacon Theatres v. Westover, 359 U.S. 500 (1959); Dairy Queen v. Wood, 369 U.S. 469 (1962); Ross v. Bernhard, 396 U.S. 531 (1970). However, the Court’s expansion of jury trial rights may have halted with McKeiver v. Pennsylvania, 403 U.S. 528 (1971). [Back to text]
235
267 U.S. 517, 539 (1925). [Back to text]
236
The Toledo Company case that the Court cited was affirmed in Toledo Newspaper Co. v. United States, 247 U.S. 402 (1918). [Back to text]
237
343 U.S. 1 (1952). See Dennis v. United States, 341 U.S. 494 (1951). [Back to text]
238
343 U.S. at 11, 13–14. [Back to text]
239
348 U.S. 11 (1954). [Back to text]
240
400 U.S. 455 (1971). See also Johnson v. Mississippi, 403 U.S. 212 (1971); Holt v. Virginia, 381 U.S. 131 (1965). Even in the absence of a personal attack on a judge that would tend to impair his detachment, the judge may still be required to excuse himself and turn a citation for contempt over to another judge if the response to the alleged misconduct in his courtroom partakes of the character of “marked personal feelings” being abraded on both sides, so that it is likely the judge has felt a “sting” sufficient to impair his objectivity. Taylor v. Hayes, 418 U.S. 488 (1974). [Back to text]
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400 U.S. at 463. See Illinois v. Allen, 397 U.S. 337 (1970), in which the Court affirmed that summary contempt or expulsion may be used to keep a trial going. [Back to text]
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330 U.S. 258 (1947). See also International Union, UMW v. Bagwell, 512 U.S. 821 (1994). [Back to text]
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330 U.S. at 292–93. [Back to text]
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330 U.S. at 293. See Walker v. City of Birmingham, 388 U.S. 307 (1967). [Back to text]
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203 U.S. 563 (1906). [Back to text]
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330 U.S. at 290–92. [Back to text]
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330 U.S. at 299. But see Cheff v. Schnackenberg, 384 U.S. 273 (1966), and “Due Process Limitations on Contempt Power: Right to Jury Trial,” supra. [Back to text]
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154 U.S. 447 (1894). [Back to text]
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Penfield Co. v. SEC, 330 U.S. 585 (1947). Note the dissent of Justice Frankfurter. For delegations of the subpoena power to administrative agencies and the use of judicial process to enforce them, see also McCrone v. United States, 307 U.S. 61 (1939); Endicott Johnson Corp. v. Perkins, 317 U.S. 501 (1943); Oklahoma Press Pub. Co. v. Walling, 327 U.S. 186 (1946). [Back to text]
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Gojack v. United States, 384 U.S. 702 (1966). See also Sanctions of the Investigatory Power: Contempt, supra, for a discussion of Congress’s power to cite an individual for contempt by virtue of its investigatory duties, which is applicable, at least by analogy, to administrative agencies. [Back to text]