Codispoti v. Pennsylvania Taylor, Iii v. Hayes 8212 5615, 73 8212 473

Decision Date26 June 1974
Docket NumberNos. 73,s. 73
Citation41 L.Ed.2d 912,94 S.Ct. 2707,418 U.S. 506
PartiesDominick CODISPOTI and Herbert Langnes, Petitioners, v. State of PENNSYLVANIA. Daniel T. TAYLOR, III, Petitioner, v. John P. HAYES, Judge, Jefferson Circuit Court, Criminal Branch, Second Division. —5615, 73—473
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Robert L. Eberhardt, Pittsburgh, Pa., for respondent, pro hac vice, by special leave of Court.

Mr. Justice WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.**

In December 1966, petitioners Dominick Codispoti and Herbert Langnes were codefendants with Richard Mayberry in a criminal trial ending in a verdict of guilty. Each acted as his own counsel, although legal advice was available from appointed counsel. At the conclusion of the trial, the judge pronounced Mayberry guilty of 11 contempts committed during trial and sentenced him to one to two years for each contempt. Codispoti was given like sentences for each of seven separate contempts. Langnes was sentenced to one to two years on each of six separate citations. Mayberry's total sentence was thus 11 to 22 years, Codispoti's seven to 14 years, and Langnes' six to 12 years. The contempt convictions were affirmed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. This Court granted Mayberry's petition for certiorari, 397 U.S. 1020, 90 S.Ct. 1266, 25 L.Ed.2d 530, and vacated the judgment of the Pennsylvania court, directing that 'on remand another judge, not bearing the sting of these slanderous remarks and having the impersonal authority of the law, (sit) in judgment on the conduct of petitioner as shown by the record.' Mayberry v. Pennsylvania, 400 U.S. 455, 466, 91 S.Ct. 499, 505, 27 L.Ed.2d 532 (1971).

The contempt charges against Mayberry and petitioners were then tried in separate proceedings before another trial judge.1 Codispoti's demand for a jury was denied. He also moved to subpoena witnesses 'to prove that my actions did not disrupt the proceedings, and I intend to prove that my actions (sic) was not contemptuous, that it was merely an answer to the provocation made by the presiding Judge.' App. 47. This motion was also denied, the court remarking that 'this is an issue between the Court and you, and the record will speak for the Court, and you and counsel can speak for yourself.' Ibid.

The trial then proceeded, the State offering into evidence the relevant portions of the transcript of the 1966 criminal proceedings in the course of which the alleged contempts occurred. The State then rested. Codispoti neither testified nor called witnesses. The court found that he had committed the seven contemptuous acts as charged and sentenced him to six months in prison for each of six contempts and a term of three months for another, all of these sentences to run consecutively.

Petitioner Langnes' trial followed a very similar course.2 He was found guilty of six separate contempts and sentenced to five terms of six months each and one term of two months, all to be served consecutively.

The trial court filed an opinion stating that 'the only points at issue are the validity of the sentences. The question of guilt of contemptuous conduct has been confirmed by both the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania . . . and by the U.S. Supreme Court . . ., therefore testimony at this hearing was limited to the record.' App. 35. The court also held that petitioners were not entitled to a jury trial

'because the questions of guilt to which the juries' decisions would be limited had already been adjudicated adversely to the Defendants by two appellate courts. Furthermore, in the instant cases no term of imprisonment in excess of six months was imposed for any one offense. The offenses for which sentences were imposed occurred at different times and on different dates.' Id., at 36 (footnote omitted).

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed without opinion, one justice dissenting on the ground that petitioners were entitled to a jury trial. 453 Pa. 619, 306 A.2d 294. We granted certiorari limited to those questions raising the issue whether petitioners should have been afforded a jury trial. 414 U.S. 1063, 94 S.Ct. 569, 38 L.Ed.2d 468 (1973).3


In Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 145, 88 S.Ct. 1444, 20 L.Ed.2d 491 (1968), the Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed to defendants in state criminal trials the right to jury trial provided in the Sixth Amendment. In a companion case, Bloom v. Illinois, 391 U.S. 194, 88 S.Ct. 1477, 20 L.Ed.2d 522 (1968), the Court held that while petty contempts, like other petty crimes, could be tried without a jury, serious criminal contempts had to be tried with a jury if the defendant insisted on this mode of trial. Although the judgment about the seriousness of the crime is normally heavily influenced by the penalty authorized by the legislature, the Court held that where no legislative penalty is specified and sentence is left to the discretion of the judge, as is often true in the case of criminal contempt, the pettiness or seriousness of the contempt will be judged by the penalty actually imposed. Finally, the Court recognized that sentences up to six months could be imposed for criminal contempt without guilt or innocence being determined by a jury, but a conviction for criminal contempt in a nonjury trial could not be sustained where the penalty imposed was 24 months in prison.

Since that time, our decisions have established a fixed dividing line between petty and serious offenses: those crimes carrying a sentence of more than six months are serious crimes and those carrying a sentence of six months or less are petty crimes. Frank v. United States, 395 U.S. 147, 149—150, 89 S.Ct. 1503, 1505 1506, 23 L.Ed.2d 162 (1969); Baldwin v. New York, 399 U.S. 66, 69, 90 S.Ct. 1886, 1888, 26 L.Ed.2d 437 (1970).4 Under these cases, we plainly cannot accept petitioners' argument that a contemnor is entitled to a jury trial simply because a strong possibility exists that he will face a substantial term of imprisonment upon conviction, regardless of the punishment actually imposed. See Taylor v. Hayes, 418 U.S. 488, 94 S.Ct. 2697, 41 L.Ed.2d 897. Our cases, however, do not expressly address petitioners' remaining argument that they were entitled to jury trials because the prison sentences imposed after post-trial convictions for contemptuous acts during trial were to be served con- secutively and, although each was no more than six months, aggregated more than six months in jail.5


There are recurring situations where the trial judge, to maintain order in the courtroom and the integrity of the trial process in the face of an 'actual obstruction of justice,' In re McConnell, 370 U.S. 230, 236, 82 S.Ct. 1288, 1292, 8 L.Ed.2d 434 (1962); see also In re Little, 404 U.S. 553, 555, 92 S.Ct. 659, 660, 30 L.Ed.2d 708 (1972), convicts and sentences the accused or the attorneys for either side for various acts of contempt as they occur. Undoubtedly, where the necessity of circumstances warrants, a contemnor may be summarily tried for an act of contempt during trial and punished by a term of no more than six months. Nor does the judge exhaust his power to convict and punish summarily whenever the punishment imposed for separate contemptuous acts during trial exceeds six months. Cf. United States v. Seale, 461 F.2d 345, 355 (CA7 1972).

Bloom v. Illinois, supra, recognized, as cases in this Court have consistently done, 'the need to maintain order and a deliberative atmosphere in the courtroom. The power of a judge to quell disturbance cannot attend upon the impaneling of a jury.' 391 U.S., at 210, 88 S.Ct., at 1486.

'(A) criminal trial, in the constitutional sense, cannot take place where the courtroom is a bedlam . . .. A courtroom is a hallowed place where trials must proceed with dignity . . ..' Illinois v. Allen, 397 U.S. 337, 351, 90 S.Ct. 1057, 1064, 25 L.Ed.2d 353 (1970) (separate opinion of Douglas, J.).

See also N. Dorsen & L. Friedman, Disorder in the Court: Report of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, Special Committee on Courtroom Conduct 10—23 (1973); Burger, The Necessity for Civility, 52 F.R.D. 211, 214—215 (1971).

'To allow the disruptive activities of a defendant . . . to prevent his trial is to allow him to profit from his own wrong. The Constitution would protect none of us if it prevented the courts from acting to preserve the very processes that the Constitution itself prescribes.' Illinois v. Allen, supra, at 350, 90 S.Ct., at 1064 (Brennan, J., concurring).

More recently, in Mayberry v. Pennsylvania, supra, we again noted that a judge, when faced with the kind of conduct there at issue, 'could, with propriety, have instantly acted, holding petitioner in contempt . . ..' 400 U.S., at 463, 91 S.Ct., at 504. That the total punishment meted out during trial exceeds six months in jail or prison would not invalidate any of the convictions or sentences, for each contempt has been dealt with as a discrete and separate matter at a different point during the trial.


When the trial judge, however, postpones until after trial the final conviction and punishment of the accused or his lawyer for several or many acts of contempt committed during the trial, there is no overriding necessity for instant action to preserve order and no justification for dispensing with the ordinary rudiments of due process. Mayberry v. Pennsylvania, supra, at 463 464, 91 S.Ct., at 504; Groppi v. Leslie, 404 U.S. 496, 499—507, 92 S.Ct. 582, 584—589, 30 L.Ed.2d 632 (1972); Taylor v. Hayes, 418 U.S., at 497, 94 S.Ct., at 2702. Moreover, it is normally the trial judge who, in retrospect, determines which and how many acts of contempt the citation will cover. It is also he or, as is the case here, another judge who will determine guilt or innocence absent a jury, who will impose the sentences and who will determine whether they will run consecutively or concurrently. In the context of the post-verdict adjudication of various acts of contempt, it...

To continue reading

Request your trial
284 cases
  • Gilman v. Com.
    • United States
    • Virginia Court of Appeals
    • 4 Abril 2006 no more than six months in jail. Serious contempt violations warrant a jury trial. See Codispoti v. Pennsylvania, 418 U.S. 506, 511-12, 94 S.Ct. 2687, 2690-91, 41 L.Ed.2d 912 (1974); see also Bloom, 391 U.S. at 198, 88 S.Ct. at 1480. The dissent makes no distinction between petty direct ......
  • Hawk v. Superior Court
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • 27 Septiembre 1974
    ...Cal.Rptr. 368, and in In re Grossman, supra, 24 Cal.App.3d at pages 628--629, 101 Cal.Rptr. 176. In Codispoti v. Pennsylvania (1974), --- U.S. ---, ---, 94 S.Ct. 2687, 2692, 41 L.Ed.2d 912, the court recognized that 'There are recurring situations where the trial judge, to maintain order in......
  • Mitchell v. Superior Court
    • United States
    • California Supreme Court
    • 28 Diciembre 1989
    ...term alone is imposed the right to jury trial exists only if the actual imprisonment exceeds six months. (Codispoti v. Pennsylvania (1974) 418 U.S. 506, 94 S.Ct. 2687, 41 L.Ed.2d 912.) When no term of imprisonment is imposed, even very large fines levied against an entity such as a labor un......
  • People v. Medrano
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • 2 Marzo 1978
    ...factual dispute, the appellate court is duty bound to make an independent analysis of the record. (Codispoti v. Pennsylvania (1974) 418 U.S. 506, 517, fn. 12, 94 S.Ct. 2687, 41 L.Ed.2d 912; see also, Bachellar v. Maryland (1970) 397 U.S. 564, 566, 90 S.Ct. 1312, 25 L.Ed.2d Freedom of commun......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
4 books & journal articles
  • Summary Contempt Power in the Military: A Proposal to Amend Article 48, UCMJ
    • United States
    • Military Law Review No. 160, June 1999
    • 1 Junio 1999
    ...399 U.S. 66, 69 (1970). 81. See Bloom v. Illinois, 391 U.S. 194 (1968); Taylor v. Hayes, 418 U.S. 488 (1974); Codispoti v. Pennsylvania, 418 U.S. 506 (1974); Muniz v. Hoffman, 422 U.S. 454 (1975); Mine Workers v. Bagwell, 512 U.S. 821 82. Codispoti, 418 U.S. at 514. 83. Id. at 514-15. 84. I......
  • A Practice Commentary To Judiciary Law Article 19
    • United States
    • Cardozo Public Law, Policy and Ethics Journal No. I-1, May 2003
    • 1 Mayo 2003
    ...Pennsylvania, 400 U.S. 455, 462 (1971). [24] See id. [25] See Taylor v. Hayes, 418 U.S. 488 (1974). [26] See Codispotti v. Pennsylvania, 418 U.S. 506 [27] United States v. Dixon, 509 U.S. 688 (1993). [28] See Lewis v. United States, 518 U.S. 322 (1996). [29] 22 N.Y. C.R.R. ßß 604.2, 701.2. ......
  • Trials
    • United States
    • Georgetown Law Journal No. 110-Annual Review, August 2022
    • 1 Agosto 2022
    ...for multiple “petty” offenses with 6-month sentence maximums, even though aggregated charges would exceed 6 months); Codispoti v. Pa., 418 U.S. 506, 511 (1974) (right to jury trial for criminal contempt proceeding even with no maximum penalty authorized because actual sentence imposed excee......
    • United States
    • Carolina Academic Press Understanding Criminal Procedure, Volume Two: Adjudication (CAP)
    • Invalid date
    ...supra.[25] See, e.g., Clawans, 300 U.S. 617.[26] Frank v. United States, 395 U.S. 147, 148 (1969).[27] E.g., Codispoti v. Pennsylvania, 418 U.S. 506, 512 n.4 (1974); Baldwin v. New York, 399 U.S. 66, 69 (1970).[28] Blanton v. City of North Las Vegas, 489 U.S. 538, 543 (1989).[29] Id.[30] Se......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT