Contempt is an act tending to embarrass, hinder, or obstruct the court in the administration of justice, or to lessen the court’s authority or dignity. Richey v. McLeod, 188 So. 228, 229 (Fla. 1939). Contempt does not exist just because a judge feels aggrieved or vexed. Via v. State, 633 So. 2d 1198, 1198 (Fla. 2d DCA 1994). Direct criminal contempt is summary punishment for conduct that occurs in the presence of the court. Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.830. Direct criminal contempt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Braisted v. State, 614 So. 2d 639, 640 (Fla. 4th DCA 1993); see Hicks ex rel. Feiock v. Feiock, 485 U.S. 624, 632 (1988).
Rumpole: This is good news indeed as we have vexed and aggrieved many a judge.
Rule 3.830 requires that the judgment of guilt of contempt include a recital of those facts underlying the charged contempt upon which the adjudication of guilt is based. This requirement cannot be dismissed as merely a technical requirement. Gidden v. State, 613 So. 2d 457, 460 (Fla. 1993). Purely conclusory statements will not meet the requirement of a recitation of facts. For example, citing the contemnor’s “unjudicious, unethical and intemperate conduct before the court” is insufficient.
Rumpole: More good news! Being intemperate is what we're all about.
Even if the order was facially sufficient, we would reverse the conviction of direct criminal contempt as there is no evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that Ms. McRoy’s actions, annoying as they undoubtedly were, embarrassed, hindered or obstructed the court in the administration of justice, or lessened the court’s authority or dignity. The power of contempt must be used only rarely and with circumspection. See State v. Clemmons, 150 So. 2d 231, 234 (Fla. 1963). “The provocation must never be slight, doubtful or of shifting interpretations. The occasion should be real and necessary, not murky, and not ameliorated in some less formal manner.”
Rumpole: For those of you needing assistance in walking the thin line of provocation- and particular instruction on how to slightly provoke- with doubtful and shifting interpretations in a murky sort of way- keep reading this blog.
See You in Court, doing what we do.