RECIPES FOR INDIRECT CONTEMPT

October 9, 2012 § 2 Comments

We talked here before about the distinction between indirect and direct criminal contempt. Indirect contempt is also called constructive contempt.

Here are some examples where the courts have found it proper to proceed for indirect criminal contempt …

  • Acts committed outside the presence of the court that hamper its functioning. In Hinton v. State, 222 So.2d 690, 691 (Miss. 1969), the court found that defense counsel’s failure to disclose to the DA (and, presumably, to the court) that he represented a juror’s wife was constructive criminal contempt.
  • Acts that hinder or prevent service of process, with or without force. Aarons v. State, 105 Miss. 402, 62 So. 419 (1913). 
  • Published materials that address pending court matters and tend to prejudice potential jurors may be punished for constructive contempt; however, there are free speech ramifications that must be carefully weighed by the court. See, Jeffries v. State, 724 So.2d 897, 899 (Miss. 1998).
  • Abuse of process. In Higgins v. State, 218 Miss. 883, 891, 56 So.2d 61, 63 (1952), the filing of 58 suits for the purpose of harassing the Rankin County Sheriff was found to be constructive criminal contempt.
  • Contemptuous language in a motion. Wood v. State, 227 So.2d 288, 290 (Miss. 1969). 
  • Contacting or attempting to influence jurors. Young v. State, 230 Miss. 525, 527 (1957). Even a request to bribe a juror, which was not actually attempted despite the request, has been found to be indirect contempt. Brewer v. State, 176 Miss. 803, 809, 170 So. 540, 541 (1936). 
  • Filing false affidavits of return of process with the court clerk. Corr v. State, decided September 20, 2012, and In re McDonald and Cheshire, decided October 4, 2012, both by the MSSC.

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