Holt v. Virginia
Annotate this Case
381 U.S. 131 (1965)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Holt v. Virginia, 381 U.S. 131 (1965)
Holt v. Virginia
Argued April 27-28, 1965
Decided May 17, 1965
381 U.S. 131
A state judge denied a motion of petitioner Dawley that the judge disqualify himself for bias from trying Dawley for contempt arising out of his conduct as a lawyer in handling a libel case pending in that judge's court. In arguing a subsequent change of venue motion which Dawley filed, another lawyer, petitioner Holt, read to the judge that motion, which charged the judge with "acting as police officer, chief prosecution witness . . . , grand jury, chief prosecutor, and judge" with respect to the contempt case against Dawley, and with intimidating and harassing Holt in his efforts to defend Dawley. The judge then summarily adjudged both petitioners in contempt for the change of venue plea, which he denied, and for the supporting argument, and later fined each $50. The State's highest court affirmed, holding that the language used in the motion violated a state statute authorizing summary contempt punishment for use of "[v]ile, contemptuous or insulting language" concerning a judge's official acts.
Held: Petitioners were deprived of their rights under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment for doing no more than exercising the constitutional right of an accused and his counsel to defend against the contempt charges made against them. Pp. 381 U. S. 136-138.
(a) A defendant charged with contempt such as this has the constitutional right to be heard and to be represented by counsel, who also has a constitutional right to present his client's case. P. 381 U. S. 136.
(b) The motion for change of venue to escape a biased tribunal raised a relevant issue. P. 381 U. S. 136.
(c) The assertedly "insulting" character of the charges in the motions was inherent in the issue of bias raised. P. 381 U. S. 137.
205 Va. 332, 136 S.E.2d 809, reversed and remanded.