Penfield Co. v. SEC
330 U.S. 585 (1947)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Penfield Co. v. SEC, 330 U.S. 585 (1947)

Penfield Company of California v.

Securities & Exchange Commission

No. 453

Argued January 16, 1947

Decided March 31, 1947

330 U.S. 585

Syllabus

In a contempt proceeding for failure to comply with a court order to enforce a subpoena duces tecum issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission in aid of an investigation pursuant to § 20(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, 48 Stat. 74, a district court adjudged the defendant guilty of contempt and imposed an unconditional fine, but refused to grant any coercive relief designed to force him to produce the subpoenaed documents. He paid the fine and took no appeal. The Commission filed a notice of appeal in the district court and subsequently a statement of points challenging as error the court's action in imposing the fine instead of a remedial penalty to make him produce the documents. The circuit court of appeals held that the district court erred in imposing the fine, and directed that the defendant be ordered imprisoned until he produced the documents.

Held:

1. The appeal was in a suit of a civil nature, and was properly taken, under Rule 73(a) of the Rules of Civil Procedure, by filing a notice of appeal with the district court. Pp. 330 U. S. 589-591.

Page 330 U. S. 586

(a) Where a Rule of Civil Procedure conflicts with a prior statute, the Rule prevails. P. 589, 330 U. S. 5.

(b) The application of the Commission for enforcement of its subpoena posed a problem in civil, not criminal, contempt. United States v. United Mine Workers,330 U. S. 258. P. 330 U. S. 590.

(c) The order of denial, being final, was appealable, and the right to appeal was not dependent on an appeal from the imposition of the fine. P. 330 U. S. 591.

2. The district court abused its discretion in refusing to grant remedial relief, and the circuit court of appeals did not err in granting it. Pp. 330 U. S. 591-595.

3. The fact that an unconditional fine had been imposed and paid did not exhaust the jurisdiction of the district court or deprive the circuit court of appeals of authority to reverse the judgment which imposed the fine and substitute a term of imprisonment conditioned upon the continuance of the contempt. Pp. 330 U. S. 593-594.

(a) Assuming arguendo that § 268 of the Judicial Code authorizing federal courts "to punish, by fine or imprisonment at the discretion of the court, contempts of their authority" governs civil as well as criminal contempt proceedings, it is no barrier to the imposition of both a fine as a punitive exaction and imprisonment as a coercive sanction. P. 330 U. S. 594.

(b) When a court imposes a fine as a penalty, it is punishing yesterday's contemptuous conduct. When it adds the coercive sanction of imprisonment, it is announcing the consequences of tomorrow's contumacious conduct. In that situation, the two offenses are not the same. P. 330 U. S. 594.

4. Not having appealed from the adverse judgment in the contempt proceedings in the district court, the defendant may not now raise objections going to the merits of that judgment. P. 330 U. S. 594.

5. Assuming that the portion of the order of the circuit court of appeals which set aside the unconditional fine is here for review, that court was correct in setting aside the unconditional fine, since it was imposed in a civil contempt proceeding. P. 330 U. S. 595.

157 F.2d 65, affirmed.

In a contempt proceeding for failure to comply with an order enforcing a subpoena duces tecum issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission under the Securities Act of 1933, 48 Stat. 74, a district court adjudged the defendant

Page 330 U. S. 587

guilty of contempt and imposed an unconditional fine. On appeal by the Commission, the Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, set aside the fine, and directed that the defendant be imprisoned until he produced the documents. 157 F.2d 65. This Court granted certiorari. 329 U.S. 706. Affirmed, p. 330 U. S. 595.

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