Carbon Fuel Co. v. United Mine Workers of America

Decision Date19 June 1975
Docket NumberNo. 74-1598,74-1598
Citation517 F.2d 1348
Parties89 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2765, 77 Lab.Cas. P 10,941 CARBON FUEL COMPANY, a corporation, Appellee, v. UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA, Appellant.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit

James M. Haviland, Charleston, W. Va. (Joseph A. Yablonski, Washington, D. C., Lewis D. Sargentich, Cambridge, Mass., and Daniel B. Edelman, Washington, D. C., on brief), for appellant.

Forrest H. Roles, Union, W. Va. (David D. Johnson, Jr., and Roger A. Wolfe, Jackson, Kelly, Holt & O'Farrell, Charleston, W. Va., on brief), for appellee.

Before HAYNSWORTH, Chief Judge, and RUSSELL and WIDENER, Circuit Judges.

RUSSELL, Circuit Judge:

The appellant Union appeals from a conviction entered for contempt by reason of an alleged violation of a temporary restraining order theretofore issued by the District Court. The conflicting positions of the parties on appeal relate to the nature of the contempt adjudged by the District Court. It is conceded that whether the contempt be considered civil or criminal is largely the dispositive issue in the appeal. If the contempt be deemed civil, the appellee correctly takes the position that the order of the District Court would not be appealable. This is so, because, while the appellant Union does not entirely concede the non-appealability of a civil contempt by a party to the action, the rule is settled that, "(A) civil contempt proceeding is in effect a continuation of the main action and therefore a party to a suit may not review upon appeal an order fining or imprisoning him for civil contempt except in connection with appeal from a final judgment in the main action." Wright, Civil and Criminal Contempt in the Federal Courts, 17 F.R.D. 167, 176 (1955). On the other hand, it is equally well established that criminal contempt proceedings are "independent of the main action" and any conviction therein is "a final order and appealable * * *." Wright, Civil and Criminal Contempt in the Federal Courts,supra, at 176; Duell v. Duell (1949), 178 F.2d 683, 688, 14 A.L.R.2d 560. And in that connection, the appellee concedes that, if the contempt proceedings be deemed criminal in nature, the judgment of the District Court must be reversed for failure to observe the procedural requirements mandated in such proceedings. 1

We are of the opinion the contempt proceedings herein were criminal in character, that the judgment of contempt is therefore appealable, and, since there was a denial of due process in the proceedings as had, the judgment must be reversed.

The true distinction between civil and criminal contempts lies in "what * * * the court primarily seek(s) to accomplish by imposing sentence" in the proceedings. Shillitani v. United States (1966), 384 U.S. 364, 370, 86 S.Ct. 1531, 1535, 16 L.Ed.2d 622; International Business Machines Corp. v. United States (2d Cir. 1973), 493 F.2d 112, 114-5, cert. denied, 416 U.S. 995, 94 S.Ct. 2409, 40 L.Ed.2d 774; Dobbs, Contempt of Court; A Survey, 56 Cornell L.Rev. 183, 235 (1971). Civil contempt, on the one hand, is " 'wholly remedial' serves only the purpose of a party litigant, and is intended to coerce compliance with an order of the court or to compensate for losses or damages caused by noncompliance." Southern Railway Company v. Lanham (5th Cir. 1969), 403 F.2d 119, 124, 33 A.L.R.3d 427; Cromaglass Corporation v. Ferm (3d Cir. 1974), 500 F.2d 601, 604. 2 Civil contempt is conditional or contingent in nature, terminable if the contemnor purges himself of the contempt. De Parcq v. United States Court for So. Dist. (8th Cir. 1956), 235 F.2d 692, 699. On the other hand, criminal contempt is punitive in nature, is intended to vindicate the authority of the court, and cannot be purged by any act of the contemnor. Nye v. United States (1941), 313 U.S. 33, 43, 61 S.Ct. 810, 85 L.Ed. 1172. It is "unconditional, since it penalizes yesterday's defiance rather than seeking to coerce tomorrow's compliance. It cannot be ended or shortened by any act by defendant." Wright & Miller, supra, at 585.

Measured by these standards, we think it obvious that, in essence, these contempt proceedings were criminal in nature. The fine imposed was unconditional and punitive in character; it ran to the clerk of the court and not to the appellee. It was not intended to be "compensatory" of any losses sustained by the appellee as a result of the contempt. Had the fine been intended for the benefit of the appellee by way of compensation for loss sustained, it would have been made "payable to the complainant" and would necessarily have been "based upon evidence of complainant's actual loss; " moreover, the "right (of the appellee), as a civil litigant, to the compensatory fine (would have been) dependent upon the outcome of the basic controversy." United States v. Mine Workers (1947), 330 U.S. 258, 304, 67 S.Ct. 677, 701, 91 L.Ed. 884. It is true the appellee stated it was prepared to prove losses...

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    ...its enforcement must conform to the constitutional safeguards that accompany criminal proceedings. See Carbon Fuel Co. v. United Mine Workers, 517 F.2d 1348, 1349 (4th Cir.1975) (holding that because contempt proceedings were properly characterized as criminal, not civil, judgment must be r......
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