421 F.Supp. 1027 (E.D.Mich. 1976), 76-368, In re Adams

Docket Nº:76-368.
Citation:421 F.Supp. 1027
Party Name:In re Dennis ADAMS, Individually and in his capacity as a representative of American Motors Corporation, and American Motors Corporation.
Case Date:November 04, 1976
Court:United States District Courts, 6th Circuit

Page 1027

421 F.Supp. 1027 (E.D.Mich. 1976)

In re Dennis ADAMS, Individually and in his capacity as a representative of American Motors Corporation, and American Motors Corporation.

No. 76-368.

United States District Court, D. Michigan

Nov. 4, 1976.

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Asst. U.S. Atty. John P. Conley, Detroit, Mich., for plaintiff.

W. Robert Chandler, Cross, Wrock, Miller & Vieson, Detroit, Mich., for Adams.

John M. Sheridan, Detroit, Mich., for American Motors Corp.

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MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOINER, District Judge.

This case involves the following question:

Does the court have the power to punish by criminal contempt of court a person for threatening to discharge a juror from employment because of jury service?

After oral and written notice specifying the charges and service on the defendants of an order to show cause why the defendants should not be held in contempt, a hearing was held at which time the court heard the testimony of all persons having knowledge of the matters involved. The court makes the following findings and conclusions.

Background.

On July 22, 1976, John E. Mayer was notified of his obligation to serve as a juror in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, sitting in Detroit for the month of August. On August 16, Mr. Mayer was chosen to serve on a jury hearing criminal charges against a Marcellette Reynolds. Evidence was taken from day to day until a verdict was reached August 20.

Mr. Mayer held an official position involved in international sales with American Motors Corporation (AMC). His immediate superior was Dennis Adams. Both men held management positions with American Motors involving the pricing and sales of AMC products. August was a busy time for both men and their staffs as a result of the introduction and pricing of AMC automobiles. Mayer had his work in hand and believed the company would not be adversely affected by his absence for jury duty during the month of August. Problems arose over the pricing data supplied by Mayer, and Adams could not put the necessary information before other AMC personnel because of having to have some of Mayer's work redone.

After Mayer was sworn in as a juror on August 16, Adams informed Mayer of the problems with his data pertaining to the pricing of the AMC vehicles. Mayer indicated that because of the court's schedule he could be back in his office on the 17th by 2:00 p. m. in order to help out. Adams was not satisfied and directed Mayer to get the names of persons who could excuse him from jury service and said in effect, "If I don't have the names on my desk before tomorrow morning, you don't have to worry about coming back to work." The discussion was heated. The threat was explicit. Mayer felt threatened at first but later realized that his tenure at the company protected him from efforts on the part of Adams to discharge him. Adams testified that he did not intend the words used to be a threat of firing. Mayer gave Adams the names of persons to call and reported for jury service on the 17th and informed the jury clerk of the conversation with Adams.

Before court started on the morning of the 17th, Adams called the jury clerk for the purpose of obtaining the release of Mayer from jury service. He was told that Mayer was serving on a case and that he could not be excused. Adams made threats to two jury clerks with whom he was talking. One testified that he said, "He might not have a job to come back to." The other, although he could not remember the exact words, said that Adams told him that Mayer's job was on the line if he were not released from jury duty. Although the conversation started calmly, both jury clerks testified they felt that Adams was making a serious threat in an official capacity as Mayer's superior with AMC. These threats were referred to the court clerk and to the judge prior to the beginning of the day's proceedings. Mayer continued to serve and a verdict was reached.

The relevant portion of section 401 of Title 18, United States Code, reads as follows: "A court of the United States shall have power to punish by fine or imprisonment, at its discretion, such contempt of its authority, and none other, as (1) Misbehavior of any person in its presence or so near thereto as to obstruct the administration of justice; . . . ."

The power provided by this section is limited and a person may not be held in

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contempt under this provision unless the act done meets the requirement...

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