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U.S. Supreme Court

Toledo Newspaper Co. v. United States, 247 U.S. 402 (1918)

Toledo Newspaper Co. v. United States

No. 371

Argued March 7, 8, 1918

Decided June 10, 1918

247 U.S. 402


A summary conviction for criminal contempt is not within the jurisdiction of this Court by writ of error, but reviewable by certiorari.

Judicial Code § 268 (Act of March 2, 1831), is merely declaratory of the inherent power of the federal courts to punish summarily for contempt, and, in providing that the power

"shall not be construed to extend to any cases except the misbehavior of any person in their presence or so near thereto as to obstruct the administration of justice,"

does no more than express a limitation imposed by the Constitution. The power, as in the case of the legislature (Marshall v. Gordon, 243 U. S. 521) is essentially one of self-preservation.

The test of the power is in the character of the acts in question: when their direct tendency is to prevent or obstruct the free and unprejudiced exercise of the judicial power, they are subject to be restrained through summary contempt proceedings.

Newspaper publications, concerning injunction proceedings pending in the district court and tending in the circumstances to create the impression that a particular decision would evoke public suspicion of the judge's integrity or fairness and bring him into public odium and would be met by public resistance, and tending in the circumstances to provoke such resistance in fact, held contemptuous, rendering the company owning the paper and its editor subject to summary conviction and punishment.

Such wrongful publications are not within the "freedom of the press," nor does the Act of 1831, supra, Jud.Code § 268, intend to sanction them.

As it is the reasonable tendency of such publications that determines their contemptuous character, it is not material that they were not circulated in the courtroom or seen by the judge, or that they did not influence his mind.

In determining whether there was any evidence to justify attributing such a tendency to the publications in question, this Court considers the evidentiary facts found by the district court only so far as to

Page 247 U. S. 403

determine whether they have any reasonable tendency to sustain the general conclusions of fact based upon them by that court and the circuit court of appeals.

In a summary proceeding for criminal contempt, semble that a single penalty based upon a conviction under all of several distinct charges in the information cannot be upheld unless all of the charges are sustained by the facts.

But where the circuit court of appeals, upon concluding that the conviction was justified under one count and the facts relative thereto, affirmed the district court without considering other counts upon which the punishment was also based, this Court examined the findings as to all the counts, and, holding them sufficient, affirmed the judgment.

237 F.9d 6, affirmed.

The case is stated in the opinion.

Page 247 U. S. 410

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