LANCE v. PLUMMER
Annotate this Case
384 U.S. 929 (1966)
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U.S. Supreme Court
LANCE v. PLUMMER , 384 U.S. 929 (1966)
384 U.S. 929
Charles LANCE, Jr.
Lucille PLUMMER et al.
Supreme Court of the United States
May 2, 1966
On Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
Mr. Justice BLACK, dissenting from the denial of certiorari. [Footnote 1]
Now and then the Court refuses to review a case which raises issues of such great importance that I feel constrained to record my own belief that the case should be heard. This is one of those cases. These important issues in the case arose this way:
Upon petition of respondents a United States District Court in Florida granted an injunction which, among other things, ordered a number of certain named defendants not to 'interfere with, molest, threaten, intimidate or coerce' Negroes who sought to and used public accommodations in St. Johns County. The order for injunction also provided that its prohibitions would be applicable to and enforceable against 'any other person to whom notice or knowledge of this Order may come.' Petitioner Lance, a Florida deputy sheriff, duly appointed by the sheriff of St. Johns County, as authorized by state law, was not named in the complaint as one of the defendants against whom the injunction was directed. Shortly after the injunction was entered, however, an affidavit was filed in the District Court charging that Lance violated the court's order by following and threatening a Negro who had tried to register at a local motel. On the afternoon of Saturday, August 15, Lance was served with an order to show cause on the following Monday why he should not be punished for contempt. He did appear, the judge found that he had knowledge of the injunction, held him guilty of contempt, ordered him to pay $200 fee to the plaintiff's lawyers, surrender his badge, resign his position as a Florida deputy sheriff
and 'no longer act under any color, guise, or pretense as a law enforcement or peace officer.' The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of contempt but modified the order so that Lance was prohibited from serving as a sheriff only until some later date when he could satisfy the District Judge that he would in good faith comply with the terms of the order. 353 F.2d 585.
Lance first contends that the District Judge exceeded his authority in attempting to make his injunction binding not only on the named defendants who were parties to the lawsuit but also on all persons who had notice of the order. This Court speaking through Mr. Justice Brandeis, held in Chase National Bank v. City of Norwalk, 291 U.S. 431, that it was a violation of 'established principles of equity jurisdiction and procedure' for a court to make its order apply to persons who were not parties but who merely had notice of the order. See also Kean v. Hurley, 179 F.2d 888 (C.A. 8th Cir.). Likewise, Rule 65(d) Fed.Rules Civ.Proc. would seem to bar such an order.* The summary contempt power of courts is a very limited one and the apparent conflict between what the court did here and what this Court in Chase said a district court could not do, is too important to liberty to leave this judgment standing without review.
The significance of this case, however, does not lie merely in the District Court's questionable assumption of jurisdiction to bind Lance by its injunction, but it is the manner in which the courts below exercised the power to punish for contempt that makes this case peculiarly [384 U.S. 929 , 931]