384 U.S. 373 (1966), 67, Cheff v. Schnackenberg

Docket Nº:No. 67
Citation:384 U.S. 373, 86 S.Ct. 1523, 16 L.Ed.2d 629
Party Name:Cheff v. Schnackenberg
Case Date:June 06, 1966
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 373

384 U.S. 373 (1966)

86 S.Ct. 1523, 16 L.Ed.2d 629

Cheff

v.

Schnackenberg

No. 67

United States Supreme Court

June 6, 1966

Argued March 3, 1966

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) following hearings issued a cease-and-desist order against a company "and its officers, agents, representatives and employees" prohibiting the continuance of practices it found illegal. The company petitioned the Court of Appeals to review and set aside the order. Claiming that the company continued to violate the order, the FTC moved for a pendente lite compliance order, which the court issued. Following opinions by the Court of Appeals upholding the FTC's jurisdiction to enter the order and affirming on the merits, the FTC petitioned that court to enter a show cause order against the company for contempt of the pendente lite order and, later, rules were issued against petitioner, who had long since severed his connections as a company official, and others to show cause why they should not be held in criminal contempt for having aided and abetted the company to violate the pendente lite order. Petitioner's demand for a jury trial was denied. Following a hearing, he was found guilty of committing acts of contempt violating the pendente lite order during the period from its entry to the entry of final judgment, and was given a six months' sentence. This Court granted the petition for certiorari limited to review of the question whether, after denial of a demand for a jury, a six months' imprisonment sentence is permissible under Article III and the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution.

Held: The judgment is affirmed. Pp. 375-384.

341 F.2d 548, affirmed.

MR. JUSTICE CLARK, joined by THE CHIEF JUSTICE, MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN, and MR. JUSTICE FORTAS, concluded that:

1. The Court of Appeals had the power to punish for criminal contempt the disobedience of its interlocutory order. Pp. 377-378.

(a) Petitioner's contention that contempt proceedings stemming from administrative law enforcement proceedings are civil, rather than criminal, is irrelevant, since a jury trial is not required in civil contempt proceedings. Shillitani v. United States, ante, p. 364. P. 377.

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(b) The purpose of the proceedings against petitioner could in no event have been remedial, i.e., civil in nature, in view of his severance long before the contempt proceedings of all connections with the company, which, moreover, no longer engaged in the business functions which the alleged contempt violations involved. P. 377.

(c) The basis of the contempt charged against petitioner was disobedience of the order of the court, not that of the FTC. P. 378.

2. Even assuming, contrary to United States v. Barnett, 376 U.S. 681, that criminal contempt proceedings are criminal actions falling within the requirements of Article III and the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution, the right to a jury trial does not extend to petty offenses, such as the offense involved here. Pp. 378-380.

(a) According to 18 U.S.C. § 1 (1964 ed.), any misdemeanor the penalty for which does not exceed six months' imprisonment is a "petty offense." P. 379.

(b) Since petitioner received a six months' sentence and the nature of criminal contempt does not necessarily require its being excluded from the category of petty offenses, petitioner's offense can be treated as "petty." P. 380.

(c) In the exercise of the Court's supervisory power and under the peculiar power of federal courts to revise sentences in contempt cases, it is ruled that criminal contempt sentences exceeding six months may not be imposed absent a jury trial or waiver thereof, though a reviewing court may revise sentences in contempt cases tried with or without juries. P. 380.

MR. JUSTICE HARLAN, joined by MR. JUSTICE STEWART, concluded that:

1. The prosecution of criminal contempts is not subject to the grand and petit jury requirements of Article III, § 2, of the Constitution and the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. Green v. United States, 356 U.S. 165. Pp. 381-382.

2. The prevailing opinion's new supervisory power rule may generate difficulty for federal courts seeking to implement locally unpopular decrees and create an administrative problem for the trial judge, who in deciding whether to proffer a jury trial must anticipate the sentence, which in turn depends on the evidence revealed in the trial. P. 382.

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CLARK, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE CLARK announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion in which THE CHIEF JUSTICE, MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN and MR. JUSTICE FORTAS join.

This is a companion case to No. 412, Shillitani v. United States, and No. 442, Pappadio v. United States, 384 U.S. 364. Unlike those cases, this is a criminal contempt proceeding.

Upon petition of the Federal Trade Commission, Cheff was charged, along with Holland Furnace Company and 10 other of its officers, with criminal contempt of the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The alleged contemnors were tried before a panel of three judges of the Court of Appeals without a jury. The corporation and three of its officers, including Cheff, were found guilty of violating a previous order of that court. Cheff, a former president and chairman of the board of Holland, was sentenced to six months' imprisonment; the other two officers were fined $500 each; and the corporation was fined $100,000. The remaining eight individuals were acquitted. 341 F.2d 548. Cheff and Holland petitioned for certiorari. We denied Holland's petition, Holland Furnace Co. v. Schnackenberg, 381 U.S. 924, and granted Cheff's, limited to a review of the question whether, after a denial of a demand for a jury, a sentence of imprisonment of six months is constitutionally permissible under Article III and the Sixth Amendment. Cheff v. Schnackenberg, 382 U.S. 917. We hold that Cheff was not entitled to a jury trial, and affirm the judgment.

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I

The case had its inception in proceedings before the Federal Trade Commission where, in 1954, complaints were issued against Holland charging it with unfair methods of competition and deceptive trade practices in connection with the sale of its products. After extensive hearings, the Commission issued a "cease and desist" order against Holland "and its officers, agents, representatives and employees" prohibiting the continuance of practices the Commission found illegal. In the Matter of Holland Furnace Co., 55 FTC 55 (1958).

Holland petitioned the Court of Appeals to review and set aside the order of the Commission. Soon thereafter, the Commission, claiming that Holland was continuing to violate its order, moved the Court of Appeals for a pendente lite order requiring compliance. On August 5, 1959, the court issued an order commanding Holland to

obey and comply with the order to cease and desist . . . unless and until said order shall be set aside upon review by this Court or by the Supreme Court of the United States. . . .

This order forms the basis of this criminal contempt proceeding. Meanwhile, Holland's petition for review was decided adversely to the corporation. In separate opinions, the Court of Appeals upheld the jurisdiction of the Commission to enter its "cease and desist" order, Holland Furnace Co. v. FTC, 269 F.2d 203 (1959), and affirmed on the merits, 295 F.2d 302 (1961).

In March, 1962, the Commission petitioned the Court of Appeals to enter a show cause order against Holland for contempt of its pendente lite order. A rule was issued, and attorneys appointed to prosecute on behalf of the court. Thereafter, in April 1963, rules were issued against Cheff and the other officers, as individuals, to show cause why they should not be held in criminal contempt

by reason of having knowingly, wilfully and

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intentionally caused, and aided and abetted in causing, respondent Holland Furnace Company to violate and disobey, and fail and refuse to comply with

the order of August 5, 1959. Cheff demanded a jury trial, which was denied, and following a full hearing extending over a 10-day period the court found him guilty. As we have stated, a sentence of six months was imposed. In accordance with the limited grant of certiorari, there is no issue here as to the sufficiency of the hearing, excepting the absence of a jury.

II

Cheff first contends that contempt proceedings in the Court of Appeals which stem from administrative law enforcement proceedings are civil, rather than criminal, in nature. This may be true where the purpose of the proceeding is remedial. Cf. Shillitani v. United States, ante, p. 364. Within the context of the question before us, however, the contention is irrelevant, for a jury trial is not required in civil contempt proceedings, as we specifically reaffirm in Shillitani, supra. In any event, the contention is without merit. The purpose of the proceedings against Cheff could not have been remedial for he had severed all connections with Holland in 1962, long before the contempt proceedings were instituted against him. He had no control whatever over the corporation, and could no longer require any compliance with the order of the Commission. Moreover, as Cheff himself points out, the corporation "had completely withdrawn from the business of replacement of furnaces, which is the area in which the violation is alleged." There was, therefore, an "absence of any necessity of assuring future compliance" which made the six-month sentence "entirely punitive." Brief for Petitioner, p. 16.

There can be no doubt that the courts of appeals have the power to punish for contempt. 18 U.S.C. § 401

Page 378

(1964 ed.). See...

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