Fourth Circuit: Obscenity directed at judge can be contempt

, The National Law Journal

   | 2 Comments

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on October 23 unanimously upheld the criminal contempt conviction of a man who used obscene language in a federal courtroom in South Carolina last year.

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What's being said

  • legaldaggar

    I am a retired lawyer. I have yet to find any legal authority for the proposition that "no one may speak or behave in the presence or absence of a judge in any manner other than one of obsequious self-abasement". Nevertheless, too many judges think that there is such a law. Obsequious self-abasement is not required by members of the executive or legislative branches. Why does the judicial branch require it?

    I suspect that it has some roots in the past when absolute monarchs held "court" and all were completely at the mercy of the absolute monarch, whose word was law. The king could do no wrong. (That manifests itself to this day and is yet another absurdity in the form of sovereign immunity, which has no place in a democracy or republic or hybrid thereof.)

    As further explanation, I point to Lord Acton's observations on the corruption wrought by power.

  • Watcher

    If the article is reported correctly, this case appears to be an unfortunate example of federal judges taking themselves much too seriously. So the clerk may have looked up from her work as the defendant spewed his curses? That constitutes distraction of the court personnel from their duties such as to rise to criminal contempt? What if the news captured him making a similar comment at the mall, and the court clerks were similarly "distracted" from their job duties as they listened to the radio? Or worse, what if this writer spewed hateful things in this comment, and "distracted" a court clerk who was reading this article on the internet? Am I now headed for federal prison? The decision sounds plainly wrong.

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