Monday, May 23, 2022
Contempt power has been with us for as long as we’ve had courts in this country. Through summary contempt proceedings, judges may imprison any person they deem insufficiently respectful to the authority of the court—with significantly less due process than a person would be entitled to under any other criminal offense. In theory, this is necessary to maintain order in the court. But in practice, summary contempt power is serially and seriously abused. Judges use incarceration to deal with piddling offenses or seemingly for no real reason at all. This Article argues that the concept of allowing judges nearly unbridled discretion to jail people for rudeness is outdated and should be reformed.