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CONTEMPT - MN Bench Book - Trial Procedures & Practices for Judges
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CONTEMPT

From MN Bench Book - Trial Procedures & Practices for Judges

Click on “TRIAL PROCEDURES & PRACTICES FOR JUDGES” above to return to main page


This section was drafted by Judge Lawrence Johnson from the 10th Judicial District

DIRECT CRIMINAL CONTEMPT CONSISTS OF ACTS THAT:

  1. OCCUR WHILE THE COURT IS SITTING,
  2. OCCUR IN THE PRESENCE OF THE COURT , AND
  3. INTERRUPT THE PROCEEDINGS OR IMPAIR THE RESPECT DUE THE AUTHORITY OF THE COURT.

Comapare Criminal contempt and civil contempt; The criminal contempt purpose is to vindicate the authority of the court. Civil contempt's purpose is to coerce performance, to effectuate a remedy given a private party. A proceeding in criminal contempt is solely to penalize the defendant.[1]

Courts considering a contempt penalty should determine at their earliest convenience whether the purpose of the contempt proceeding is remedial or punitive, and whether the nature of the contemptuous conduct at issue is direct or constructive.[2]

DIRECT CRIMINAL CONTEMPT CAN BE PUNISHED BY A SUMMARY PROCEEDING PURSUANT TO Minn. Stat.588.20, Subd. 2 – Misdemeanor contempt (DESCRIBED BELOW) 90 days in custody and a maximum $1,000 fine should be the presumptive maximum sentence for direct criminal contempt as a matter of comity and deference.[3]

CONSTRUCTIVE CRIMINAL CONTEMPT WHICH OCCURS OUTSIDE THE COURTROOM MUST BE PROSECUTED BY THE STATE AS A CRIMINAL MATTER.

MS 588.20, Subd. 2 – Misdemeanor contempt. Every person who commits a contempt of court of any of the following kinds is guilty of a misdemeanor:

(1) disorderly, contemptuous or insolent behavior, committed during the sitting of the court, in its immediate view and presence, and directly intending to interrupt the proceedings, or to impair the respect due to its authority
(3) breach of the peace, noise or other disturbance directly tending to interrupt the proceedings of a court, jury or referee


Summary Procedure for punishing Direct Contempt

1. Make a record of the offending conduct (e.g. upon the Court announcing it decision, the Defendant abruptly stood up, slammed his hand on the table, stated “This is bullshit” and saluted the Court by his extending the index finger of his hand.”)
2. Make the finding that such conduct was disorderly, contemptuous and insolent behavior, occurring while the Court was on the bench and in the presence of the Court. Such conduct interrupted the proceedings and impaired the respect due the Court.
3. Make a finding of guilt (e.g. “Therefore the Defendant is guilty of the misdemeanor of direct criminal contempt under MS 588.20, subd. 2”).
4. Impose sentence (e.g. Having found the Defendant to be guilty of direct criminal contempt, the Defendant is order to serve _______(up to 90 days) (or pay a fine of (up to $1,000).
a. Usually, pronounce “execution forthwith” or set report date;
b. You can consider allowing the defendant Huber or work release while serving the contempt sentence
c. You can consider allowing the defendant to serve the contempt sentence concurrent or consecutive to a sentence the defendant is currently serving.
d. If you impose and execute a fine, you can use a "pay or stay fine" (e.g. “The fine is to be paid by _______ or the Defendant is to report to the correctional facility to serve ____ days. Sentence satisfied upon the payment of the fine or the service of the time.”).
e. If appropriate, offer purge conditions after announcing the sentence (e.g. “Provided, however, that the Defendant may purge the contempt by making a sincere apology to the Court and all persons present in the courtroom for his conduct.”)
i. If the Defendant purges the contempt, make a finding that the contempt was purged and that purge satisfies the contempt sentence.

REMAIN CALM AND PROFESSIONAL, BUT FIRM, IN MAKING THE FINDINGS AND IMPOSING THE SENTENCE

  1. State v. Tatum, 556 N.W.2d 541 (Minn. 1996)
  2. Id.
  3. Id.