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Goss v. Illinois

January 24, 1963


Author: Duffy

Before HASTINGS, Chief Judge, and DUFFY and SCHNACKENBERG, Circuit Judges.

DUFFY, Circuit Judge.

Thomas D. Goss, also known as Tom Duggan, filed the complaint herein under the Federal Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201 et seq. He asked the District Court to declare that he will be denied his right to due process of law as well as his freedom of speech and press if the mittimus for his arrest held by the State of Illinois is not held to be void and its enforcement permanently enjoined.

The District Court found the issues in favor of the plaintiff. It issued an injunction restraining defendants from arresting or threatening to arrest plaintiff as was ordered by a judge of the Superior Court of Cook County, Illinois.

During 1955, plaintiff Goss appeared five nights a week on an evening television program known as the Tom Duggan show, which was broadcast from a Chicago station. This was a form of conversation-commentary show, dealing heavily in criticisms and sarcasms, often including unrestrained attacks on public officials and others involved in current news stories.

On July 26, 1955, a Chicago citizen filed a divorce complaint against his wife in the Superior Court of Cook County, Illinois (Champagne v. Champagne, 55 S 11166). He moved for the custody of his child and testimony in support of such motion tended to implicate the child's mother in improper conduct with Thomas D. Goss, the plaintiff herein. Goss testified as a witness. At the conclusion of the hearing, temporary custody of the child was awarded to the paternal grandparents.

At various times during the child-custody proceeding, Goss, in his Tom Duggan show, commented on the then pending proceedings, and more particularly, on the parties, witnesses and attorneys. The District Court stated: "His remarks were severe and tended to hold the persons about whom he commented up to public ridicule."

On November 1, 1955, the Judge before whom the custody proceedings had been held, caused the institution of contempt proceedings against Goss, and later heard and ruled on the order to show cause.

In the contempt hearing, Goss sought a change of venue. He admitted the statements attributed to him, but stated his motive was to defend himself before his television audience against the charge of adultery raised in the child-custody proceedings. The Judge found Goss guilty of "criminal indirect contempt." Goss was sentenced to a 10-day jail sentence and a $100 fine.

The Supreme Court of Illinois, on direct review, decided that Goss had been entitled to a change of venue. However, the Supreme Court reviewed the contempt proceedings and held the statements of Goss on television "constituted a clear and present danger to the administration of justice." People of State of Illinois v. Goss, 10 Ill.2d 533, 141 N.E.2d 385, 391. The Supreme Court found the intimidation was not of the trial judge, but of the parties and their witnesses.

The contempt case against Goss was remanded to the Superior Court of Cook County, and was assigned to another judge. It was stipulated that the record in the original proceeding would stand as evidence in the second hearing. The People offered no additional testimony. However, Goss again testified and called several witnesses who were heard.

Goss was again found guilty of contempt and the same penalties were imposed as in the first proceeding. On direct appeal, the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, People of State of Illinois v. Goss, 20 Ill.2d 224, 170 N.E.2d 113. Certiorari was denied by the United States Supreme Court, Goss v. Illinois, 365 U.S. 881, 81 S. Ct. 1029, 6 L. Ed. 2d 192; rehearing denied, 366 U.S. 941, 81 S. Ct. 1658, 6 L. Ed. 2d 852.

We hold the Civil Rights Act (42 U.S.C. § 1983) does not confer jurisdiction upon the federal district court to collaterally attack this state criminal contempt conviction which has been affirmed by the highest state court.

By commencing this suit in the federal court after the Illinois Supreme Court had affirmed the criminal contempt conviction, and the Supreme Court of the United States had denied certiorari, plaintiff seeks to thwart the final state court judgment by relitigating, in a trial de novo, the very issues that had been litigated in the state court. If this newly discovered appellate ...

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