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Groppi v. Leslie

January 6, 1971

JAMES E. GROPPI, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
JACK LESLIE, SHERIFF OF DANE COUNTY, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT



Swygert, Chief Judge, Hastings, Senior Circuit Judge, and Kiley, Cummings, Kerner, Pell and Stevens, Circuit Judges.*fn1 Stevens, Circuit Judge, with whom Swygert, Chief Judge, and Kiley, Circuit Judge, join dissenting. Kiley, Circuit Judge (dissenting).

Author: Pell

PELL, Circuit Judge.

This matter being before the court en banc following reargument pursuant to the granting of Groppi's petition for rehearing, we are not persuaded that the result, and reasoning in support thereof, reached by the panel originally hearing this appeal, as set forth in the court's decision of October 28, 1970, is other than correct.

The basic and simple issue remains whether the judicial power of summary punishment*fn2 for direct contempt is constitutionally exercisable by the legislative branch. We hold that it is for the reasons advanced in the original opinion of this court, which opinion we now adopt and confirm. Groppi v. Leslie, 436 F.2d 326 (7th Cir. October 28, 1970).

While the resolution adopted by the Wisconsin Assembly might well have spelled out the alleged misconduct of Groppi with greater particularity, it nevertheless is couched in terms of ultimate fact which we do not find lacking in adequate specificity. There is no indication to us that the contemnor failed to be fully and explicitly informed of the charge leveled against him and the exact nature of his misconduct.

Our decision is reached on the narrow issue before us, involving direct interference with "conducting public business" in "the immediate view of the legislative body." We do not purport to reach any decision on the matter of contemptuous behavior occurring outside the legislative chamber itself.

Other means for punishing contempts are available to the legislature and resort to such other procedures may be found sufficiently efficacious in the future. We here hold, however, that the basic public need for inviolability of the legislative processes of our government dictates the availability of the power of summary contempt punishment to the legislative branch. The Wisconsin legislature has seen fit in the circumstances of the case before it to exercise that power and we do not deem it in the public interest to interfere.

It is to be noted that Groppi's term of imprisonment under the resolution does not extend beyond the end of the legislative term, i.e., January 7, 1971. Both petitioner's and respondent's counsel have argued that the issue here involved is not mooted by this fact. This is our opinion also. See United States ex rel. Lawrence v. Woods, 432 F.2d 1072, 1074-1075 (7th Cir. 1970).

Reversed.

Disposition

Reversed.

STEVENS, Circuit Judge, with whom SWYGERT, Chief Judge, and KILEY, Circuit Judge, join, dissenting.

At no time in this proceeding has petitioner asserted any claim of innocence, or any claim that his sentence was excessive. It may be assumed, as the Wisconsin Supreme Court plainly stated, that any such claim would have been promptly and fairly heard in some form of post conviction trial.*fn1 As the disposition of an isolated controversy, therefore, no one could criticize this court's judgment as unfair or unreasonable.

The case, however, must be decided in the context of our legal traditions. It raises only a procedural issue, but in my judgment that issue is of fundamental importance and requires that petitioner's conviction be set ...


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