State v. Hansford

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtBRANNON
Citation28 S.E. 791,43 W.Va. 773
PartiesSTATE v. HANSFORD.
Decision Date13 November 1897

28 S.E. 791
43 W.Va.
773

STATE
v.
HANSFORD.

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.

Nov. 13, 1897.


Contempt—Power to Punish —New Trial—Parties — Strangers to Action — Attorneys — What Constitutes Contempt—Procedure.

1. The common-law power of all courts, except the supreme court of appeals, to punish for contempt summarily, —that is, without indictment and jury, —is curtailed by section 27. c. 147, Code 1891. Summary punishment, as at common law, can be imposed by such other courts only in cases therein allowed.

2. There is no right in citizens and taxpayers not parties to a suit to petition for a new trial or other action therein. There is no right to petition a court "for redress of grievances" by strangers to the case. That right is applicable only to political bodies.

3. An attorney at law is an officer of the court, under clause 3, § 27, c. 147, Code 1891.

4. The mere drafting by an attorney of a petition, by persons not parties to a cause, asking in respectful language a new trial, is not a contempt.

5. To punish an officer of a court for misbehavior under clause 3, § 27, c. 147, Code 1891, the act must be done in his official character.

6. If a person be present in court when fined for contempt, a rule need not be served upon him, but he must be allowed to make defense, except for acts done in the open presence of the court.

(Syllabus by the Court.)

[28 S.E. 792]

Error to circuit court, Tucker county; J Homer Holt, Judge.

L. Hansford was fined for contempt, and brings error. Reversed.

L. Hansford, in pro. per.

The Attorney General, for the State.

BRANNON, J. L. Hansford was fined by the circuit court of Tucker county for a contempt, and comes to this court for reversal of the judgment. No brief or view or single citation of authority aids us in the decision of the case. I have given a careful examination to it, and am of opinion that the judgment is erroneous. The common law gives to courts the power to punish for contempts summarily; but this wide power has been curtailed in this state by section 27, c. 147, Code 1891, providing that courts and judges may punish for contempts summarily only in the cases there specified. I do not think that this case falls under any of the provisions of that statute, unless it be under its third clause: "Misbehavior of an officer of the court in his official character." Hansford was an attorney of that court. An attorney, though not a public officer of state, is an officer of the court. Ex parte Faulkner, 1 W. Va. 269; Ex parte Quarrier, 2 W. Va. 569; Ex parte Garland, 4 Wall. 378; Weeks, Attys. c. 2. But though Hansford was an officer of the court, within the meaning of that Code provision, yet two questions present themselves to the mind. One is whether the act charged as a contempt is in law a contempt; and the second is, even if it be such, whether it can be said that it was done in his official character as an attorney; for, to be punishable, it must be such. The wrong imputed to Hansford is that a case was tried in said circuit court of the county court against Degler, in which a jury found a verdict against Degler; and with it there was some popular dissatisfaction, and certain citizens of Tucker county proposed a demonstration in his behalf, which Hansford, who was counsel for Degler, repressed. Then he was requested to draw a petition to the Judge for a new trial. He objected to doing so, but was so importuned and charged with disloyalty to his client that he yielded, and drew the petition, and delivered it to Degler's father, and it found its way into the judge's hands. Hansford did not solicit signatures, nor did he present it to the court, and, after its drafting, heard of it for the first time in court. For his action in this matter he was fined. I have not been able to see in this, which is a punitive proceeding, where we ought to be clear, that the act is contempt. This petition is respectful in language, simply expressing the opinion of its signers that great injustice had been done Degler in the verdict of the jury, and asking...

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19 practice notes
  • Hendershot v. Hendershot, No. 14457
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • January 22, 1980
    ...court may not proceed and punish summarily for acts other than those enumerated in the statute. To the same effect, see State v. Hansford, 43 W.Va. 773, pt. 1 syl., 28 S.E. It is, therefore, apparent that we have viewed this statute as a restriction on the Page 97 contempt powers of a court......
  • Kessel v. Leavitt, No. 23557.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • July 22, 1998
    ...contempt instructions did nothing more than correctly instruct the jury as to the legal definitions of contempt. See State v. Hansford, 43 W.Va. 773, 28 S.E. 791 (1897) (defining contempt (Plaintiff's Instruction No. 36)); Eastern Assoc. Coal Corp. v. Doe, 159 W.Va. 200, 220 S.E.2d 672 (197......
  • Laramie National Bank v. Steinhoff
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • June 1, 1898
    ...51 N.W. 942; Wyatt v. Magee, 3 Ala. 94; Newport v. Light Co., 92 Ky. 445; Hessey v. Gund (Wis.), 74 N.W. 342; State v. Hansford (W. Va.), 28 S.E. 791; Dandridge's Case, 2 Va. Cases, 408; 28 S.E. 154; Hamlin v. R. Co. (Mass.), 49 N.E. 922; Gould v. Sessions, 67 F. 163; 14 C. C. A., 366. In t......
  • Powhatan Coal & Coke Co v. Ritzjudge
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • October 30, 1906
    ...of criminal offenses does not preclude legislative power to provide for punishment thereof by summary proceedings. State v. Hansford, 43 W. Va. 773, 28 S. E. 791; State v. Fredlock, 52 W. Va. 232, 43 S. E. 153, 94 Am. St. Rep. 932. That statutory power to act in vacation is sufficient, is t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
19 cases
  • Hendershot v. Hendershot, No. 14457
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • January 22, 1980
    ...court may not proceed and punish summarily for acts other than those enumerated in the statute. To the same effect, see State v. Hansford, 43 W.Va. 773, pt. 1 syl., 28 S.E. It is, therefore, apparent that we have viewed this statute as a restriction on the Page 97 contempt powers of a court......
  • Kessel v. Leavitt, No. 23557.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • July 22, 1998
    ...contempt instructions did nothing more than correctly instruct the jury as to the legal definitions of contempt. See State v. Hansford, 43 W.Va. 773, 28 S.E. 791 (1897) (defining contempt (Plaintiff's Instruction No. 36)); Eastern Assoc. Coal Corp. v. Doe, 159 W.Va. 200, 220 S.E.2d 672 (197......
  • Laramie National Bank v. Steinhoff
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • June 1, 1898
    ...51 N.W. 942; Wyatt v. Magee, 3 Ala. 94; Newport v. Light Co., 92 Ky. 445; Hessey v. Gund (Wis.), 74 N.W. 342; State v. Hansford (W. Va.), 28 S.E. 791; Dandridge's Case, 2 Va. Cases, 408; 28 S.E. 154; Hamlin v. R. Co. (Mass.), 49 N.E. 922; Gould v. Sessions, 67 F. 163; 14 C. C. A., 366. In t......
  • Powhatan Coal & Coke Co v. Ritzjudge
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • October 30, 1906
    ...of criminal offenses does not preclude legislative power to provide for punishment thereof by summary proceedings. State v. Hansford, 43 W. Va. 773, 28 S. E. 791; State v. Fredlock, 52 W. Va. 232, 43 S. E. 153, 94 Am. St. Rep. 932. That statutory power to act in vacation is sufficient, is t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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