Taylor v. Hayes
418 U.S. 488 (1974)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Taylor v. Hayes, 418 U.S. 488 (1974)

Taylor v. Hayes

No. 73-473

Argued March 18, 1974

Decided June 26, 1974

418 U.S. 488

Syllabus

During a Kentucky murder trial in which petitioner was counsel for the accused, respondent trial judge informed petitioner on nine different occasions that he was in contempt of court. At the conclusion of the trial, respondent, in the jury's presence, made a statement concerning petitioner's trial conduct, and, refusing petitioner's request to respond, imposed consecutive sentences on nine counts of contempt aggregating almost four and one-half years' imprisonment, including sentences of one year's imprisonment on each of two counts. Subsequently, respondent amended the judgment to eliminate the first contempt charge and to reduce each of the latter sentences to six months' imprisonment, but was silent on whether all of the sentences were to run concurrently or consecutively. The Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed, but ruled that, because the amended judgment did not direct that the sentences be served consecutively, they had to be served concurrently, thereby making the penalty actually imposed six months in jail and rendering constitutionally permissible the conviction and sentence without a jury trial.

Held:

1. Since no more than a six-month sentence was actually imposed, the eight contempts, whether considered singly or collectively, constituted petty offenses, and hence trial by jury was not required. It is not improper to permit the State, as in this instance, after conviction, to reduce a sentence to six months or less, rather than retry the contempt with a jury, since "criminal contempt is not a crime of the sort that requires the right to jury trial regardless of the penalty involved." Bloom v. Illinois,391 U. S. 194, 391 U. S. 211. Pp. 418 U. S. 495-496.

2. Respondent's conduct, in proceeding summarily after trial to punish petitioner for alleged contempt committed during the trial without giving him an opportunity to be heard in defense or mitigation before he was finally adjudged guilty and sentence was imposed, does not square with the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Groppi v. Leslie,404 U. S. 496. Reasonable notice of the specific charges and opportunity to be heard

Page 418 U. S. 489

are essential in view of the heightened potential for abuse posed by the contempt power. Pp. 418 U. S. 496-500.

3. Because it appears from the record that "marked personal feelings were present on both sides," and that marks of "unseemly conduct [had] left personal stings," Mayberry v. Pennsylvania,400 U. S. 455, 400 U. S. 464, another judge should have been substituted for respondent for the purpose of finally disposing of the contempt charges. Pp. 418 U. S. 501-503.

494 S.W.2d 737, reversed and remanded.

WHITE, .J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BRENNAN, STEWART, BLACKMUN, and POWELL, JJ., and in Parts II and III of which DOUGLAS and MARSHALL, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed an opinion dissenting from Part I, post, p. 418 U. S. 504. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 418 U. S. 523.

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