Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 12th Judicial Circuit, Will County, Illinois, Circuit No. 12-CC-22. Honorable Carmen Goodman, Judge, Presiding.
The appellate court reversed respondent's conviction for indirect criminal contempt based on a profane remark she made in the hallway outside a courtroom where she had been waiting to appear on a speeding ticket and the remark expressed her feelings about the judge's decision to take a recess, since the State did not establish respondent's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, especially when there was no evidence respondent intended to embarrass the judge, she did not use the judge's name or communicate directly to her, and courts have held that concern for the dignity and reputation of the courts does not justify the punishment as criminal contempt of criticism of a judge or a judicial decision.
Mario Kladis, of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Ottawa, for appellant.
James Glasgow, State's Attorney, of Joliet (Judith Z. Kelly, of State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for the People.
JUSTICE WRIGHT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Lytton concurred in the judgment and opinion. Justice Holdridge specially concurred, with opinion.
[¶1] Respondent, Valerie Perez, was in traffic court waiting to appear on a speeding ticket. When the court took a recess, respondent exited the courtroom and was overheard by a bailiff saying, " I waited all fucking morning and now she takes a break." After the bailiff relayed the comment to the court, the trial judge returned to the bench and instructed the State to prepare and file a petition for contempt. The court denied the defense request for a short continuance to prepare for trial and presided over a hearing on the same date
as the alleged misconduct. After finding respondent guilty of indirect criminal contempt, the court sentenced respondent to serve eight days in custody. Respondent appeals. We reverse.
[¶3] On September 28, 2012, respondent was in the Will County courthouse waiting to appear on a speeding ticket in courtroom 304. Once the court announced it would be taking a recess, respondent left the courtroom. Thereafter, Bev Richardson, a bailiff assigned to another courtroom, courtroom 302, contacted the judge and told the court that respondent purportedly used profane language in the courthouse hallway while commenting on the court's decision to take a break.
[¶4] Based on the information communicated to the court by bailiff Richardson, the court returned to the bench and instructed the State to prepare a petition putting respondent on notice that she was being charged with indirect criminal contempt based on respondent's conduct. The prosecutor responded, " Judge, normally I can't give this to the Court. I don't know what the person said. I'm sorry." The court further advised the prosecutor that he was not required to have personal knowledge of the statement in order to draft the contempt petition.
[¶5] The record contains an unsigned, handwritten document written on a blank form entitled " COURT ORDER." The entire handwritten petition is set forth below:
" State files a petition for adjudication for indirect criminal contempt, and order[s] her to show good cause as to why she should not be held in indirect criminal contempt of court. *** Conduct alleged is the Defendant swore outside the courtroom after the Court had taken a recess, per Bailiff Bev Richardson. The witness indicated that the defendant said 'now she takes a break after I've been waiting all fucking morning.'"
[¶6] With respondent present in the courtroom, defense counsel requested a continuance for counsel to research the law, answer the charge, prepare potential evidence, and investigate potential witnesses. Defense counsel stated respondent was entitled to be advised of the charge and the range of penalties, to benefit from compulsory process to present witnesses, and to answer the charges. Defense counsel concluded her response by stating, " It's a criminal matter like any other."
[¶7] The court denied the request to schedule the hearing for another date. In so doing, the court said, " This is basically indirect criminal contempt. This is not criminal in nature. This is basically civil in nature. So we are going to ...