When a judge makes a ruling you don't like, the usual response is a motion to reconsider, an appeal, or a writ petition. Saying "Tell Judge Currie get the f--- off all my cases" is contraindicated. That was the course chosen by pro se civil litigant Robert Peoples in a federal court in South Carolina. Mike Scarcella has this story
for the NLJ (free registration required).
This resulted in a trial for criminal contempt at which Peoples (no longer pro se) was convicted. The Fourth Circuit affirmed
Peoples has filed a certiorari petition
in the Supreme Court, Peoples
v. United States
, No. 12-7544
. Along with the law of contempt, the SC FedPD makes a First Amendment argument, citing Cohen
v. California, 403 U.S. 15
, 26 (1971), the notorious "F___ the Draft" jacket-in-the-courtroom case. "If Cohen
is correct and the mere use of such a profane word cannot be made a crime, it logically follows that its use may not constitute the reason for criminal contempt."
That "if" would be a good issue for the Court to take up. As much as I admire Justice Harlan for his many fine opinions, I think he got it wrong on that one. Freedom of speech does not need to include the freedom to say anything anywhere. Society can and should insist on a basic level of decorum in its government proceedings. Cohen et al. can take their protests outside.