247 U.S. 402 (1918), 371, Toledo Newspaper Co. v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 371
Citation:247 U.S. 402, 38 S.Ct. 560, 62 L.Ed. 1186
Party Name:Toledo Newspaper Co. v. United States
Case Date:June 10, 1918
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 402

247 U.S. 402 (1918)

38 S.Ct. 560, 62 L.Ed. 1186

Toledo Newspaper Co.

v.

United States

No. 371

United States Supreme Court

June 10, 1918

Argued March 7, 8, 1918

ERROR AND CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

A summary conviction for criminal contempt is not within the jurisdiction of this Court by writ of error, but reviewable by certiorari.

Judicial Code § 268 (Act of March 2, 1831), is merely declaratory of the inherent power of the federal courts to punish summarily for contempt, and, in providing that the power

shall not be construed to extend to any cases except the misbehavior of any person in their presence or so near thereto as to obstruct the administration of justice,

does no more than express a limitation imposed by the Constitution. The power, as in the case of the legislature (Marshall v. Gordon, 243 U.S. 521) is essentially one of self-preservation.

The test of the power is in the character of the acts in question: when their direct tendency is to prevent or obstruct the free and unprejudiced exercise of the judicial power, they are subject to be restrained through summary contempt proceedings.

Newspaper publications, concerning injunction proceedings pending in the district court and tending in the circumstances to create the impression that a particular decision would evoke public suspicion of the judge's integrity or fairness and bring him into public odium and would be met by public resistance, and tending in the circumstances to provoke such resistance in fact, held contemptuous, rendering the company owning the paper and its editor subject to summary conviction and punishment.

Such wrongful publications are not within the "freedom of the press," nor does the Act of 1831, supra, Jud.Code § 268, intend to sanction them.

As it is the reasonable tendency of such publications that determines their contemptuous character, it is not material that they were not circulated in the courtroom or seen by the judge, or that they did not influence his mind.

In determining whether there was any evidence to justify attributing such a tendency to the publications in question, this Court considers the evidentiary facts found by the district court only so far as to

Page 403

determine whether they have any reasonable tendency to sustain the general conclusions of fact based upon them by that court and the circuit court of appeals.

In a summary proceeding for criminal contempt, semble that a single penalty based upon a conviction under all of several distinct charges in the information cannot be upheld unless all of the charges are sustained by the facts.

But where the circuit court of appeals, upon concluding that the conviction was justified under one count and the facts relative thereto, affirmed the district court without considering other counts upon which the punishment was also based, this Court examined the findings as to all the counts, and, holding them sufficient, affirmed the judgment.

237 F. 986, affirmed.

The case is stated in the opinion.

Page 410

WHITE, J., lead opinion

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case is before us on error to review the action of the court below affirming a judgment of the trial court holding the defendants guilty of a summary contempt and imposing a fine upon them both. There is also pending an application for certiorari made upon the assumption that, if jurisdiction on error was wanting, the case involved questions of such importance as to justify our interposition.

We are of opinion that a motion to dismiss the writ of error must prevail, since it is settled that a conviction for a criminal, although summary, contempt is, for the purposes of our reviewing power, a matter of criminal law not within our jurisdiction on error. Cary Manufacturing Co. v. Acme Flexible Clasp Co., 187 U.S. 427, 428; O'Neal v. United States, 190 U.S. 36, 38; Bessette v. W. B. Conkey

Page 411

Co., 194 U.S. 324, 335; In re Merchants' Stock & Grain Co., 223 U.S. 639; Gompers v. United States, 233 U.S. 604, 606. But this does not relieve us from the duty of exerting jurisdiction, as we are of opinion that the case calls for the exertion of the discretionary power with which we are vested. The writ of certiorari is therefore granted, and we proceed to examine and dispose of the case to the extent rendered necessary by that conclusion.

The case is this: the Toledo Railways & Light Company, in 1913, controlled and operated practically all the street railways in Toledo. The franchises under which it did so, however, it was generally considered, expired on the 27th of March, 1914. In anticipation of this fact, negotiations as to the terms upon which they should be renewed were broached between the city and the company, and pronounced differences were manifested. This gave rise to public agitation and discussion over the question, which had become acute in November, 1913. In that month, evidently in order to enable the city to secure from the company such terms of agreement as it might impose, an ordinance was passed without giving any new franchise or in terms making any new contract with the company, providing that, on and after the 27th of March, 1914, the assumed day of the expiration of the franchises, three-cent fares should be charged from day to day. Complaint alleging the injustice of this provision and the wrong which the railroad asserted would be produced by giving it effect increased the agitation.

In January, 1914, creditors of the company filed in the district court of the United States their bill against the company to enjoin it from obeying the ordinance on the ground that to do so would confiscate the property which they held in the company and would destroy the franchises which the company enjoyed and which, it was asserted, only expired in the following October. On March 24th,

Page 412

the creditors filed a supplemental bill making the city a party to the suit and asking preliminary and permanent injunctions against the city. On the same day, the company also filed its bill against the city seeking to restrain the enforcement of the ordinance both by preliminary and final injunctions.

At this juncture and before action had been taken by the court, the Toledo News-Bee, a daily paper published in Toledo by the Toledo Newspaper Company, began publications adverse to the rights asserted against the city by the creditors and the railway company, and in no uncertain terms avouched the right of the city to have enacted the ordinance which the suits assailed and challenged the right of the court to grant the relief prayed. On March 30th, the court, after hearing on the applications for preliminary injunctions, denied them on the ground that the assailed ordinance was not self-enforcing, that it required an application for judicial power to put it into effect, and that it would be time enough when the city invoked such relief by such power to assert by way of defense the matters which were made the basis of the prayer for affirmative relief in the pending controversies.

In September following, under a new prayer, [38 S.Ct. 562] the court reconsidered its action and awarded the preliminary injunction prayed on the ground that, as the city had in the meanwhile treated the ordinance as enforceable without resort to judicial process, and was acting against the company and the creditors and their alleged rights on that assumption, the duty was cast upon the court of protecting such rights pending the decision of the causes. In the meanwhile, however, the agitation over the questions which the suits involved had unremittingly continued, and was beyond doubt fanned by continuous publications on the subject in the stated newspaper into a more exaggerated -- not to use a stronger word -- and

Page 413

vociferous expression which embraced the whole field; that is, not only the relative rights of the city and the corporation, but also, at least by indirection, the duty and power of the court and its right to afford any relief in the matters before it.

Immediately preceding the action of the court taken on September 12th granting the preliminary injunction, and while that subject was before it for consideration, an attachment for contempt was issued against one Quinlivan for words spoken by him at a meeting of a labor union concerning the court and the matter which it was then engaged in considering. And, a few days following, on September 15th, a similar process was issued against the managing editor of the Toledo News-Bee for publications written by him in the paper concerning the action of the court in the Quinlivan case.

On September 29th following, the court directed the district attorney to present an information for contempt against the newspaper company and its editor for the publications which had been made concerning the controversy, and on October 28th, giving effect to this order, an information was filed charging the newspaper company and the editor with contempt. The charges were stated in three counts. The first embraced matters published during the pendency of the suit from the time, March 24th, when the action was taken to make the city a party and the respective preliminary injunctions were prayed, up to and including the time when the ultimate action of the court on the subject in September was taken. The two other counts related, the one to publications made at the time of and concerning the attachment for contempt against Quinlivan, and the other to publications concerning the attachment against the managing editor. The defendants demurred on the ground that the information stated no act within the power of the court to

Page 414

punish for contempt, and, on the overruling of the demurrer, they answered, not disputing the publications charged, but challenging the innuendoes by which in the information they were interpreted...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP
133 practice notes
  • 757 F.2d 557 (3rd Cir. 1985), 83-5664, Eash v. Riggins Trucking Inc.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
    • March 15, 1985
    ...Court occasionally relapsed in its view of scope of the contempt power under the Act, see, e.g., Toledo Newspaper Co. v. United States, 247 U.S. 402, 418, 38 S.Ct. 560, 563 62 L.Ed.2d 1186 (1918), overruled by Nye v. United States, 313 U.S. 33, 47-52, 61 S.Ct. 810, 815-817, 85 L.Ed. 1172 (1......
  • 20 Cal.2d 506, 17903, Magill Bros. v. Building Service Employees' International Union
    • United States
    • California Supreme Court of California
    • July 2, 1942
    ...directly tend to prevent the proper discharge of judicial functions. Patterson v. Colorado, supra; Toledo Newspaper Co. v. United States, 247 U.S. 402, 419 [38 S.Ct. 560, 62 L.Ed. 1186]. In the present case, we have no occasion to inquire as to the permissible Page 516 scope of subsequent p......
  • 224 P. 1028 (N.M. 1924), 2888, State v. Magee Pub Co.
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court of New Mexico
    • February 21, 1924
    ...and applied all thus said to the judicial power as equally appropriate to it. Toledo Newspaper Co. v. United States (October term, 1917) 247 U.S. 402, 38 S.Ct. 560, 62 L.Ed. 1193. The case of Anderson v. Dunn came before the federal Supreme Court (February term, 1821), 6 Wheat. 204, 5 L.Ed.......
  • 918 F.Supp. 1524 (M.D.Ga. 1995), 4 95-cv-36, In re E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 11th Circuit Middle District of Georgia
    • August 21, 1995
    ...Court in Ex parte Robinson, supra, it certainly was entirely dissipated in the later opinion in Toledo Newspaper Co. v. United States, 247 U.S. 402, 38 S.Ct. 560, 62 L.Ed. 1186 [ (1918) ]. It was made perfectly clear by the opinion in that case that contempt was not restricted to interferen......
  • Free signup to view additional results
129 cases
  • 757 F.2d 557 (3rd Cir. 1985), 83-5664, Eash v. Riggins Trucking Inc.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
    • March 15, 1985
    ...Court occasionally relapsed in its view of scope of the contempt power under the Act, see, e.g., Toledo Newspaper Co. v. United States, 247 U.S. 402, 418, 38 S.Ct. 560, 563 62 L.Ed.2d 1186 (1918), overruled by Nye v. United States, 313 U.S. 33, 47-52, 61 S.Ct. 810, 815-817, 85 L.Ed. 1172 (1......
  • 20 Cal.2d 506, 17903, Magill Bros. v. Building Service Employees' International Union
    • United States
    • California Supreme Court of California
    • July 2, 1942
    ...directly tend to prevent the proper discharge of judicial functions. Patterson v. Colorado, supra; Toledo Newspaper Co. v. United States, 247 U.S. 402, 419 [38 S.Ct. 560, 62 L.Ed. 1186]. In the present case, we have no occasion to inquire as to the permissible Page 516 scope of subsequent p......
  • 224 P. 1028 (N.M. 1924), 2888, State v. Magee Pub Co.
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court of New Mexico
    • February 21, 1924
    ...and applied all thus said to the judicial power as equally appropriate to it. Toledo Newspaper Co. v. United States (October term, 1917) 247 U.S. 402, 38 S.Ct. 560, 62 L.Ed. 1193. The case of Anderson v. Dunn came before the federal Supreme Court (February term, 1821), 6 Wheat. 204, 5 L.Ed.......
  • 918 F.Supp. 1524 (M.D.Ga. 1995), 4 95-cv-36, In re E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 11th Circuit Middle District of Georgia
    • August 21, 1995
    ...Court in Ex parte Robinson, supra, it certainly was entirely dissipated in the later opinion in Toledo Newspaper Co. v. United States, 247 U.S. 402, 38 S.Ct. 560, 62 L.Ed. 1186 [ (1918) ]. It was made perfectly clear by the opinion in that case that contempt was not restricted to interferen......
  • Free signup to view additional results
4 books & journal articles
  • Chief Judge Melvin Shortess: A Pencil Sketch from Life
    • United States
    • Louisiana Law Review Nbr. 61-1, October 2000
    • October 1, 2000
    ...Economy Carpets Mfrs. & Dist., Inc. v. Better Bus. Bur., 330 So. 2d 301, 307 (La. 1976). [45] Toledo Newpaper Co. v. United States, 247 U.S. 402, 419-20, 38 S. Ct. 560 (1918). [46] 340 So. 2d 360 (La. App. 1st Cir. 1976), writ refused, 342 So. 2d 224 (La. 1977). Justices Dixon and Denni......
  • Purging contempt: eliminating the distinction between civil and criminal contempt.
    • United States
    • Washington University Law Review Vol. 88 Nbr. 5, July 2011
    • July 1, 2011
    ...controlled by the grants which the Constitution made and the limitations which it imposed." Toledo Newspaper Co. v. United States, 247 U.S. 402, 418 (1918). This interpretation of the law was effectively overruled. Nye v. United States, 313 U.S. 33, 49-50 (1941). However, Congress's ab......
  • Exceptional freedom - the Roberts Court, the First Amendment, and the new absolutism.
    • United States
    • Albany Law Review Vol. 76 Nbr. 1, September 2012
    • September 22, 2012
    ...Harassment and the First Amendment: No Collision in Sight, 47 RUTGERS L. REV. 461, 465 (1995). (61) Toledo Newspaper Co. v. United States, 247 U.S. 402, 414, 421 (1918); cf. Wood v. Georgia, 370 U.S. 375, 396 (1962) (Harlan, J., dissenting) (citing Patterson v. Colorado, 205 U.S. 454, 462 (......
  • Rodrigo's ninth chronicle: race, legal instrumentalism, and the rule of law.
    • United States
    • University of Pennsylvania Law Review Vol. 143 Nbr. 2, December 1994
    • December 1, 1994
    ...by a public school on the respondent, who made an assembly speech filled with sexual innuendo); Toledo Newspaper Co. v. United States, 247 U.S. 402, 421-22 (1918) (upholding criminal contempt charges against a newspaper for criticism of the disposition of a case), overruled by Nye v. United......