F-bomb's collateral damage

Obscenity case explores the limits of courtroom expression.

, The National Law Journal


A South Carolina obscenity case explores the limits of courtroom expression.

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Originally appeared in print as F-bomb case weighs language use in court

What's being said

  • Caldwell Hancock

    Gene's "blank the judge" comment is a perfect example of free speech.

    Just imagine what would happen if the same clerk who reported on Peoples read this and then reported it to this same judge, who then decided she was offended by Gene's comment and decided to have him hauled into court and put in jail for four months just for making that comment.

    Gene sits in jail for four months losing his freedom and job and who knows what else. Two years later the Fourth CIrcuit decides this is another "Judge Peck" case and that the contempt conviction was illegal.

    Damages for Gene from the judge or the federal government that put him there illegally? Zero.

    This is why Congress needs either to make reparations in such instances or remove fromoffice every judge found guilty of such abuses of office.

  • Caldwell Hancock

    Our self-important federal judges may have lifetime jobs but they were not made Gods or immune from criticism so long as the criticism fits within the parameters that the Supreme Court has established.

    Judge Peck was impeached for summoning a lawyer into court for contempt criticizing the judge in an article submittedto a newspaper. The result was the federal and state sstatutes that since that time have limited the contempt power to misconduct committed in the presenceof the judge or so near thereto that there is a real risk of disruption of court business. Those are time and place cases. Under the time and placecases there can be no censiorship of crude language said in the courtroom with no judge present at a time when there is no proceeding thatcan be disrupted. The courthouse is a public place; it is not elementary school and the courtroom is not some sort of sanctuary where the seven dirty words are forbidden under all circumstances.

    Content cases turn on what is said. Peoples made no factual or even opinion statement accusing the judge of dishonesty or lack of integrity.He does not slander the judge factually and his opinion about the judge is protected under the time and place rules.

    This is another example of a federal judge abusing power. Unfortunately Peoples has no way of obtaining damages for this four month illegal sentence and those of us who know that his comment, albeit inflammatory and unnecessary, was free speech at the time and place it was made. Why? Because the federal judges havemadeup a rule to protect themselves - they say they are immune no matterhow illegally they act so long as they are acting as a judge, not judge driving a car to the grocery.

    The federal public defender is correct. This judge should be impeached as was Judge Peck.

  • Uncle Bill

    The %&@#$&ing &$ers need to $@&# their #%&@ing #@#!&#@s!!! And should, too!

  • JFlaherty

    This article is precious:) -But seriously, profanity in the courtroom? I understand other concerns exist in terms of courtroom protocols; like many that still insist upon calling upon "God's Blessing." While this may seem silly to some, certainly to atheists, I doubt they find it actually offensive.
    But the F-bomb in the courtroom?? That's 'straight-up' offensive. Unless we all want to descend into anarchy, civility and stringent protocol must be maintained. Barring profanity is necessary and appropriate.

  • Gene Forte

    F- the judge!

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