Bessette v. W. B. Conkey Co.
194 U.S. 324 (1904)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Bessette v. W. B. Conkey Co., 194 U.S. 324 (1904)

Bessette v. W. B. Conkey Company

No. 142

Argued April 7-8, 1904

Decided May 16, 1904

194 U.S. 324

Syllabus

A contempt proceeding is sui generis, in its nature criminal, yet may be resorted to in civil as well as criminal actions and also independently of any action. The purpose of contempt proceedings is to uphold the power of the court, and also to secure suitors therein the rights by it awarded. The power to punish for contempt is inherent in all courts.

Under § 6 of the Court of Appeals Act of 1891, a circuit court of appeals has jurisdiction to review a judgment of the district or circuit court finding a person guilty of contempt for violation of its order and imposing a fine for the contempt.

If the person adjudged in contempt and fined therefor is not a party to the suit in which the order is made, he can bring the matter to the circuit court of appeals by writ of error, but not by appeal.

This case is before us on questions certified by the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The facts as stated are that, on August 24, 1901, the W. B. Conkey Company filed

Page 194 U. S. 325

its bill of complaint in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Indiana against several parties, praying an injunction, provisional and perpetual, restraining the defendants, their confederates, agents, and servants, from interfering with the operation of its printing and publishing house. A temporary restraining order was issued, and on December 3, 1901, a perpetual injunction was ordered against all the defendants appearing or served with process. On September 13, 1901, the complainant filed its verified petition informing the court that various persons, among them Edward E. Bessette (who was not named as a party defendant in the bill), with knowledge of the restraining order, had violated it, describing fully the manner of the violation. Upon the filing of that petition, Bessette was ordered to appear before the court and show cause why he should not be punished for contempt in violating the restraining order. He appeared and filed his answer to the charges, and upon a hearing, the court found him guilty of contempt and imposed a fine of $250. From this order or judgment, Bessette prayed an appeal to the circuit court of appeals, which was allowed, and the record filed in that court. Upon these facts, the circuit court of appeals certified the following questions:

"First. Whether the circuit court of appeals has jurisdiction to review an order or judgment of the circuit court of the United States, finding a person guilty of contempt for violation of an order of that court, and imposing a fine for the contempt."

"Second. Whether the 'Act to Establish circuit courts of appeals, and to Define and Regulate in Certain cases Jurisdiction of the Courts of the United States, and for Other Purposes,' approved March 3, 1891 (26 Stat. 826, c. 517), authorizes a review by a circuit court of appeals of a judgment or order of a circuit court of the United States finding a person not a party to the suit guilty of contempt for violation of an order of that court, made in such suit, and imposing a fine for such contempt. "

Page 194 U. S. 326

"Third. Whether, if such review be sanctioned by law, a person so adjudged in contempt, and fined therefor, who is not a party to the suit, can bring the matter to the circuit court of appeals by appeal."

"Fourth. Whether, if such review be sanctioned by law, a person so adjudged in contempt and fined therefor, who is not a party to the suit, can bring the matter to the circuit court of appeals by writ of error."

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