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OFFUTT V. UNITED STATES, 348 U. S. 11 (1954)

U.S. Supreme Court

Offutt v. United States, 348 U.S. 11 (1954)

Offutt v. United States

No. 27

Argued October 22, 1954

Decided November 8, 1954

348 U.S. 11


In a criminal trial in a Federal District Court, the judge became personally embroiled with the defense counsel in a protracted wrangle, during which the judge displayed personal animosity and a lack of proper judicial restraint. At the close of the trial, acting under Rule 42 (a) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the judge summarily found the defense counsel guilty of criminal contempt for "contumacious and unethical conduct . . . during the trial," and ordered him committed for ten days. The Court of Appeals, while agreeing that counsel was guilty of reprehensible misconduct, found that "appellant's conduct cannot fairly be considered apart from that of the trial judge," and reduced the punishment to 48 hours in affirming the conviction.

Held: in the exercise of this Court's supervisory authority over the administration of criminal justice in the federal courts, the contempt conviction is set aside and the cause is remanded to the District Court with a direction that the contempt charges be retried before a different judge. Cooke v. United States, 267 U. S. 517. Pp. 348 U. S. 11-18.

93 U.S.App.D.C. 148, 208 F. 2d 842, reversed.

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