The opinion of the court was delivered by: MICHAEL J. REAGAN, District Judge
ORDER FOLLOWING CONTEMPT/SHOW CAUSE HEARING
A. Introduction and Procedural Background
On June 25, 2004, attorney Eric Troutt was suspended from the
practice of law in this District under Rule 83.4 of the LOCAL
RULES OF THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS. The suspension was
based on a September 2002 Order of the Supreme Court of Oklahoma
approving Troutt's resignation pending disciplinary proceedings.
Troutt sought review of his suspension by motion filed July 6,
2004. Randomly assigned to this case, the undersigned District
Judge convened a status conference/hearing on July 30, 2004,
heard argument from Troutt, and accepted supplemental material in
support of Troutt's motion.
On August 6, 2004, the undersigned District Judge granted the
relief sought by Troutt and reinstated Troutt to the roll of
attorneys admitted to practice in this Court. Later that day,
Troutt filed two pleadings. One (Doc. 12) was a motion to alter
or amend the Court's reinstatement Order. The other was a
document captioned "Response to Court Order" (Doc. 11). In that
pleading, Troutt harshly criticized the undersigned District
Judge for three sentences in the reinstatement Order. Based on
the filing of that "Response," this Court ordered Troutt to
appear at a hearing (set in October 2004) to show cause why he
should not be held in criminal contempt. See Doc. 17. In mid-August 2004, a party not involved in the disciplinary
matter before this Court filed a motion seeking a temporary
restraining order ("TRO") or injunctive relief against Troutt.
This Court conducted a hearing on the motion and denied the
request for a TRO or injunction. During the hearing on that
motion, however, certain other facts came to light which resulted
in the Court entering a Supplemental Show Cause Order on
September 3, 2004.
That Order reminded Troutt that he must appear for a show
cause/contempt hearing on October 29, 2004 before the undersigned
Judge. The September 3rd Order also directed Troutt to
respond in writing by September 24, 2004 to both the original
Show Cause Order and the Supplemental Show Cause Order. Troutt
filed a written response on September 25, 2004 (Doc. 27).
Although, technically, the response was filed belatedly, the
Court accepted and considered it.
Two days before the October 29, 2004 show cause/contempt
hearing, Troutt moved to continue the hearing due to personal,
confidential reasons. The Court (without requiring Troutt to
delineate the personal, confidential reasons) immediately issued
an Order continuing the hearing for two weeks, "so that he
(Troutt) may rest and get well" (Doc. 31). The hearing was
rescheduled for November 12, 2004, one of very few open slots on
the Court's docket/calendar for the month of November. The Court
also reiterated that, at the show cause/contempt hearing, Troutt
would be permitted not only to orally argue the points advanced
in his September 25th response to the Show Cause Orders but
also to call witnesses and present evidence relevant to the
contempt issues. On November 10, 2004 (again, two days before the scheduled
hearing), Troutt moved the Court to cancel the hearing and
instead schedule a status conference in this matter (Doc. 32).
The Court denied the motion immediately (Doc. 33).
The following day, November 11, 2004 (a day on which the
Courthouse was closed for the observance of Veteran's Day),
Troutt filed a motion again asking the Court to delay the show
cause/contempt hearing (Doc. 34). That motion hinted that Troutt
would not appear at the hearing the following day, due to
commitments in other Courts, before other Judges.
Because the undersigned Judge and one of his law clerks both
were working from their respective homes on the Court holiday,
they were electronically alerted to Troutt's Veteran's Day filing
and were able to draft and e-file an Order that same day denying
Troutt's motion and emphasizing that he must appear at the
November 12th hearing, that the Court would render a decision
with or without Troutt present, and that Troutt's failure to
appear November 12th would be construed as contumacious
behavior (Doc. 35).
Despite having been given multiple notices of the hearing
(Docs. 17, 23, 31, 33, 35), Attorney Troutt failed to appear at
the show cause/contempt hearing.
B. Jurisdiction and Venue
Eric Troutt has been a lawyer practicing in this District since
February 14, 2003. Local Rule 83.4 of this District provides
that the Judges of this Court, in furtherance of their inherent
power and responsibility to supervise the conduct of attorneys
admitted to practice before them, may conduct disciplinary
proceedings. Additionally, 18 U.S.C. § 401 provides the federal district
courts with general contempt authority. Section 401 provides:
A court of the United States shall have power to
punish by fine or imprisonment, or both, at its
discretion, such contempt of its authority, and none
(1) Misbehavior of any person in its presence or so
near thereto as to obstruct the administration of
justice; . . . [and]
(3) Disobedience or resistance to its lawful writ,
process, order, rule, decree, or command.
Furthermore, FEDERAL RULE OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE 42(b)
empowers a United States District Court to "summarily punish a
person who commits criminal contempt in its presence if the judge
saw or heard the contemptuous conduct and so certifies." The
undersigned District Judge now certifies that he did witness,
first-hand, contemptuous conduct by attorney Eric Troutt.
In the original Show Cause Order (Doc. 17), the Court outlined
three reasons Troutt should show cause why he ought ...