681 F.2d 934 (4th Cir. 1982), 78-1066, United States v. Troxler Hosiery Co., Inc.

Docket Nº:78-1066.
Citation:681 F.2d 934
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Petitioner, v. TROXLER HOSIERY CO., INC., Respondent.
Case Date:June 21, 1982
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

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681 F.2d 934 (4th Cir. 1982)

UNITED STATES of America, Petitioner,



No. 78-1066.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

June 21, 1982

Argued May 27, 1982.

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John R. Fleder, Washington, D. C. (J. Patrick Glynn, Gerald C. Kell, Robert B. Nicholson, Dept. of Justice, Washington, D. C., on brief), for petitioner.

Edwin E. Boone, Jr., Robert C. Cone, J. Howard Coble, Greensboro, N. C., for respondent.

Before WINTER, Chief Judge, WIDENER, Circuit Judge, and WILKINS, [*] District Judge.


On February 16, 1982 we adjudged Troxler Hosiery Co., Inc., (Troxler) guilty of criminal contempt, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 401(3), for willfully disobeying an order of this court in a case styled United States v. Troxler Hosiery Co., Inc., 672 F.2d 365 (4 Cir. 1982). Briefly stated, the contempt was committed when, despite the knowledge of its attorney and its president, Robert Andrew Troxler, that our order filed February 6, 1978 and continued on March 8, 1978 prohibited Troxler from removing previously seized sleepwear from the Middle District of North Carolina, Troxler removed most, if not all, of the 9,773.66 dozen garments in violation of the order. We invited the government to make a recommendation with regard to punishment, giving Troxler the right to respond thereto and to request oral argument. The matter has been heard at Troxler's request, and the papers and arguments, both written and oral, thoroughly considered.


Despite its request for a jury trial, Troxler was tried and found guilty of criminal contempt without the intervention of a jury, and we are met at the outset with the contention that our authority to punish for criminal contempt, unlimited by the terms of 18 U.S.C. § 401, is narrowly circumscribed by the failure to grant a jury trial.

The Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial 1 applies to criminal contempt proceedings

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to the same extent that it does to any other criminal proceeding; "petty" contempts may be tried without a jury, but contemnors in serious contempt cases in the federal courts have a right to a jury trial. Muniz v. Hoffman, 422 U.S. 454, 475-476, 95 S.Ct. 2178, 2190, 45 L.Ed.2d 319 (1975).

One criterion for determining whether a criminal offense is serious is the intrinsic nature of the crime charged, regardless of the authorized punishment. See Callan v. Wilson, 127 U.S. 540, 555-557, 8 S.Ct. 1301, 1306-1307, 32 L.Ed. 223 (1888). But criminal contempt, in and of itself, or without regard to the punishment imposed, is not a serious offense. Muniz v. Hoffman, 422 U.S. at 476, 95 S.Ct. 2190.

A criminal offense may also be characterized in terms of the punishment imposed on the offender, and should be regarded as serious if the maximum authorized penalty for the offense is serious. See Baldwin v. New York, 399 U.S. 66, 68, 90 S.Ct. 1886, 1887, 26 L.Ed.2d 437 (1970). In cases in which the defendant is charged with criminal contempt for which no maximum penalty is prescribed by statute, the gravity of the offense and, therefore, the determination of whether the contemnor has a right to a jury trial must be determined according to the actual punishment imposed. Frank v. United States, 395 U.S. 147, 149, 89 S.Ct. 1503, 1505, 23 L.Ed.2d 162 (1969).

The Supreme Court has adopted a "bright line" test for determining whether a term of imprisonment imposed on a contemnor is...

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