Coleman v. Roberts

CourtSupreme Court of Alabama
Writing for the CourtBRICKELL, C.J.
Citation113 Ala. 323,21 So. 449
Decision Date16 December 1896
PartiesCOLEMAN ET AL. v. ROBERTS. [1]

21 So. 449

113 Ala. 323

COLEMAN ET AL.
v.
ROBERTS. [1]

Supreme Court of Alabama

December 16, 1896


Appeal from city court of Birmingham; H. A. Sharpe, Judge.

Action by Rankin Roberts against James B. Coleman and others. Judgment for plaintiff. Defendants appeal. Reversed.

This action was brought against Coleman and the sureties on his official bond to recover damages, as alleged in the complaint, for that, while holding and discharging the duties of the office of notary public and ex officio justice of the peace in Jefferson county, he "maliciously and without any probable cause therefor, and under color of his office, *** caused the plaintiff to be arrested and imprisoned in the county jail of Jefferson county for six hours on the charge of contempt of court, when the plaintiff had not been guilty of any contempt whatever, or of any act which, under the laws of the state of Alabama, could be construed as such, and the act with which the plaintiff was charged was not one for which he could have been summarily punished for contempt." To the complaint as filed there were demurrers interposed, but under the opinion it is unnecessary to notice them. The defendants pleaded the general issue and several special pleas setting up the facts attendant upon the adjudging by the defendant James B. Coleman of the plaintiff guilty of contempt of court. There were demurrers filed to the pleas, which were overruled. The testimony for the plaintiff tended to show that while one Whit Hicks was being tried before the defendant on a charge of assault and battery, the plaintiff, who was on Hicks' appearance bond, was present in court, and upon Coleman saying something about the testimony, and speaking as if he intended to fine Hicks, the plaintiff arose, and said to Coleman, "I know two men at my house who saw the affair, and stated as the defendant's witness swore." Coleman then asked Roberts to give him the names of these witnesses, so that he could summon them, and, upon his refusal to do so, the justice said, "I have the power to fine you for contempt if you do not," and, upon the plaintiff's persistent refusal, the justice said, "I fine you six dollars, and sentence you to six hours in jail." The fine was paid, and the plaintiff was carried to jail. It was shown that the plaintiff and the defendant Coleman were on friendly terms at the time the plaintiff was adjudged guilty of contempt, and the plaintiff's testimony tended to show that, upon being asked by the plaintiff's attorney why he sentenced him to jail, the defendant said that it was because he refused to tell the names of the witnesses about whom he spoke; and on cross-examination, the plaintiff's witnesses also testified that Coleman probably said that it was for contempt. The testimony for the defendant tended to show that the time Roberts spoke during the trial of Whit Hicks before the defendant it was in a rude, disrespectful, and insolent manner; his voice was loud, and his language and manner interrupted the progress of the trial; that the defendant stated to Roberts that he wanted to do full justice in the case, and it was important to have the witnesses present, and insisted on Roberts giving him the names; but in a disrespectful way Roberts declined to do so, and thereupon the defendant adjudged him guilty of contempt, and fined him six dollars, and sentenced him to six hours' imprisonment. The docket of the defendant Coleman was introduced in evidence, and on the page where the entry of the case of the said Whit Hicks was there was also the entry of a fine against Roberts as follows: "R. Roberts fined six dollars in this case," and nothing more relating to the alleged contempt proceeding appeared on said docket. There was also introduced in evidence a mittimus, which the defendant made out and delivered to the deputy sheriff, requiring his committal to the jail, which was legal in form. The court, at the request of the plaintiff, gave to the jury the following written charge: "If the jury believe from the evidence all the facts stated in any one of the three counts of the complaint, then they should find for the plaintiff." The defendant duly excepted to the giving of this charge, and also excepted to the court's refusal to give, among others, the following written charge requested by them: "If the jury believe the evidence, they must find for the defendants."

Walker & Porter and W. R. Houghton, for appellants.

Sam Will John and Mitchell & Dickey, for appellee.

BRICKELL, C.J.

The assignments of error are numerous, but there is a single question of materiality and importance to the rights of the parties involved; and that question defends upon facts which may be accepted in the phase in which the testimony of either party presents them. The defendant was a notary public of the appointment of the governor, having and exercising the same jurisdiction as a justice of the peace within the ward or precinct for which he was appointed. While holding court, at a proper time and place, one Whit Hicks was brought before him, charged with having committed an assault and battery,-an offense within the jurisdiction of the defendant as justice. During the trial the defendant adjudged that the plaintiff, who was present as a bystander or spectator, was guilty of conduct constituting a contempt, and sentenced him to pay a fine of six dollars, and to suffer six hours' imprisonment in the county jail. The sentence and consequent imprisonment is the gravamen of the complaint.

"The power to punish contempts by fine and imprisonment is incident to all courts of justice, and without such power the administration of the law would be in continual danger of being thwarted by the lawless. The power seems to be as ancient as courts themselves." Easton v. State, 39 Ala. 551. With as much of precision as the...

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32 practice notes
  • Union Indemnity Co. v. Webster, 6 Div. 950
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • 25 Octubre 1928
    ...breach of the official bond were not subject to demurrer directed thereto. Deason v. Gray, 189 Ala. 672, 66 So. 646; Coleman v. Roberts, 113 Ala. 323, 21 So. 449, 36 L.R.A. 84, 59 Am.St.Rep. 111; Kelly v. Moore, 51 Ala. 364. The statute (section 2612, Code of 1923) was the departing from th......
  • Robertson v. State, 6 Div. 643
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Appeals
    • 16 Diciembre 1924
    ...to punish for contempt is inherent in all courts of record at common law. Ex parte Dickens, 162 Ala. 272, 50 So. 218; Coleman v. Roberts, 113 Ala. 323, 21 So. 449, 36 L.R.A. 84, 59 Am.St.Rep. 111; Ex parte Hamilton, 51 Ala. 66; Powell v. State, 48 Ala. 154; Easton v. State, 39 Ala. 551, 87 ......
  • Ex parte Craig, 308.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • 22 Mayo 1922
    ...Case, 114 Mass. 230; In re Chadwick, 109 Mich. 588, 67 N.W. 1071; Tyler v. Hamersley, 44 Conn. 393, 26 Am.Rep. 471; Coleman v. Roberts, 113 Ala. 323, 21 South. [282 F. 153] 449, 36 L.R.A. 84, 59 Am.St.Rep. 111; Bradley v. State, 111 Ga. 168, 36 S.E. 630, 50 L.R.A. 691, 78 Am.St.Rep. 157; In......
  • D.A.R. v. R.E.L., 1151080
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • 7 Septiembre 2018
    ...shall not be suffered to call in question his official action in a suit for damages." -- Cooley on Torts, 408.’" Coleman v. Roberts, 113 Ala. 323, 329, 21 So. 449, 450 (1896). The policy supporting quasi-judicial immunity is the same. As the United States Supreme Court said in Butz v. Econo......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
33 cases
  • Union Indemnity Co. v. Webster, 6 Div. 950
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • 25 Octubre 1928
    ...breach of the official bond were not subject to demurrer directed thereto. Deason v. Gray, 189 Ala. 672, 66 So. 646; Coleman v. Roberts, 113 Ala. 323, 21 So. 449, 36 L.R.A. 84, 59 Am.St.Rep. 111; Kelly v. Moore, 51 Ala. 364. The statute (section 2612, Code of 1923) was the departing from th......
  • Robertson v. State, 6 Div. 643
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Appeals
    • 16 Diciembre 1924
    ...to punish for contempt is inherent in all courts of record at common law. Ex parte Dickens, 162 Ala. 272, 50 So. 218; Coleman v. Roberts, 113 Ala. 323, 21 So. 449, 36 L.R.A. 84, 59 Am.St.Rep. 111; Ex parte Hamilton, 51 Ala. 66; Powell v. State, 48 Ala. 154; Easton v. State, 39 Ala. 551, 87 ......
  • Ex parte Craig, 308.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • 22 Mayo 1922
    ...Case, 114 Mass. 230; In re Chadwick, 109 Mich. 588, 67 N.W. 1071; Tyler v. Hamersley, 44 Conn. 393, 26 Am.Rep. 471; Coleman v. Roberts, 113 Ala. 323, 21 South. [282 F. 153] 449, 36 L.R.A. 84, 59 Am.St.Rep. 111; Bradley v. State, 111 Ga. 168, 36 S.E. 630, 50 L.R.A. 691, 78 Am.St.Rep. 157; In......
  • D.A.R. v. R.E.L., 1151080
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • 7 Septiembre 2018
    ...not be suffered to call in question his official action in a suit for damages." -- Cooley on Torts, 408.’" Coleman v. Roberts, 113 Ala. 323, 329, 21 So. 449, 450 (1896). The policy supporting quasi-judicial immunity is the same. As the United States Supreme Court said in Butz v. E......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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