Friday, September 22, 2006

Not contempt. The Second Circuit reversed a conviction of criminal contempt against a plaintiff in a civil action, arising from her contact with a juror in the courtroom cafeteria during the trial of her case. The plaintiff had given the juror, who she knew she was not supposed to talk to, some papers, which she told the juror that she should read.

The plaintiff had been charged under 18U.S.C. 401(1), for a direct contempt of court. However, in order to be convicted of that statute, a party would have to have committed the contempt in or near the courtroom. The Second Circuit held that the cafeteria, ten floors away from the courtroom was not sufficiently near the courtroom to trigger the statute. The Court stated that: "Unlike jury rooms, witness rooms, or immediately adjacent hallways, the cafeteria is not a place 'set apart' for official court business, or for the use of jurors or other trial participants."

In that the government had failed to prove an essential element of its case in this contempt proceeding, the judgment was reversed and the case remanded with instructions to enter a judgment of acquittal. The decision in United States v. Rangolan can be found here.

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