Harris v. United States
382 U.S. 162 (1965)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Harris v. United States, 382 U.S. 162 (1965)

Harris v. United States

No. 6

Argued October 11-12, 1965

Decided December 6, 1965

382 U.S. 162

Syllabus

Petitioner, a grand jury witness, refused on self-incrimination grounds to answer certain questions. He and the grand jury were brought before the District Judge, who advised petitioner that he would receive immunity from prosecution and ordered him to answer the questions before the grand jury, but petitioner refused again. He was brought before the court again and sworn, and once more refused to answer on the ground of privilege. The District Judge thereupon adjudged petitioner guilty of criminal contempt and imposed a prison sentence under Rule 42(a) of the Rules of Criminal Procedure, which provides for summary punishment for criminal contempt committed in the court's presence.

Held:

1. Summary punishment of criminal contempt under Rule 42(a) is reserved for such acts of misconduct in the court's presence as threatening the judge or obstructing court proceedings and other exceptional circumstances requiring prompt vindication of the court's dignity and authority. P. 382 U. S. 164.

2. A refusal to testify, such as the one here, not involving a serious threat to orderly procedure, is punishable only after notice and hearing, as provided by Rule 42(b). Brown v. United States,359 U. S. 41, overruled. Pp. 382 U. S. 164-167.

334 F.2d 460 reversed and remanded.

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