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MATTER ARTHUR HENRY JAMES. APPEAL ARTHUR HENRY JAMES (12/17/82)

filed: December 17, 1982.

IN RE IN THE MATTER OF ARTHUR HENRY JAMES. APPEAL OF ARTHUR HENRY JAMES


No. 1410 Philadelphia, 1981, Appeal from Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, of Philadelphia County, No. 80-01-655-671.

COUNSEL

Athena Mary Dooley, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Dianne L. Anderson, Philadelphia, for Commonwealth, participating party.

Wickersham, Brosky and Wieand, JJ.

Author: Wieand

[ 307 Pa. Super. Page 571]

Arthur Henry James, an attorney, overslept and arrived late on the seventh day of a criminal trial, causing delivery of the court's jury instructions to be delayed for almost an hour. Counsel was summarily held in contempt and fined $200. On appeal, he contends that the "wrongful intent" essential to a finding of contempt was absent. We agree and reverse.

"Courts unquestionably have inherent power to punish willful misconduct which obstructs a fair and orderly trial. [Citations omitted] This includes the authority to impose summary criminal contempt." Commonwealth v. Garrison, 478 Pa. 356, 365, 386 A.2d 971, 975 (1978). However, in Pennsylvania, the power to impose summary punishment for contempt has been limited by statute. Thus, the Judicial Code, at 42 Pa.C.S.A. ยง 4131, provides as follows:

The power of the several courts of this Commonwealth to issue attachments and to inflict summary punishments for contempts of court shall be restricted to the following cases:

(1) The official misconduct of the officers of such courts respectively.

(2) Disobedience or neglect by officers, parties, jurors or witnesses of or to the lawful process of the court.

(3) The misbehavior of any person in the presence of the court, thereby obstructing the administration of justice.*fn1

Subsection 3 of the statute, being the provision under which appellant was adjudged ...


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