No. 5 4 - 0 3
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF MONTANA
STATE OF MONTANA,
Plaintiff a t Respondent,
-vsGALE C. ABwIS,
Defendant and Appellant.
District Court of the Sixteenth Judicial District,
In and for the County of Rosebud,
The Honorable Arthur B. Martin, Judge presiding.
COUNSEL OF RECORD:
George T. Radovich, Billings, Montana
For Respondent :
Mike Greely, Attorney General, Helena, Montana
S. Charles Sprinkle, Deputy County Attorney,
Submitted on Briefs:
March 23, 1984
May 9, 1984
Mr. Justice Frank B. Morrison, Jr. delivered the Opinion of
Defendant appeals the judgment of the Sixteenth Judicial
misdemeanor criminal contempt under section 45-7-309, MCA. We
reverse and dismiss.
Abrams was convicted in district court, on appeal from
justice court, of a misdemeanor game offense and was ordered
to pay a fine of $300.00 within 90 days.
Abrams presented a
document entitled "Public Office Money Certificate" to the
subsequently discovered the document was not a negotiable
Abrams was then notified that payment was still
due, but the fine was never paid.
After the expiration of the 90 days, the Rosebud County
maintained that the district court lacked jurisdiction.
The crime of contempt as defined in section 45-7-309 is
The crime is an offense against society and
the action is brought by the State.
In contrast, the courts of this State have a power to
enforce their judgments and maintain decorum and respect in
This contempt power is part of the
judicial power conferred by Article VII, Section 1 of the
sections 3-1-501-523, MCA.
Under this power a court may sua
sponte find a person in either civil contempt or criminal
contempt of the court's authority.
Thus it has been said
that "jurisdiction to punish a contempt rests solely in the
Gonzales v. District Court (Colo. 1981) , 629 P. 2d
The State maintains that the latter rule also applies to
criminal contempt actions brought by the State pursuant to
section 45-7-309, MCA.
contempt as defined
This argument must fail.
in this statute is a wrong against
The criminal action is totally independent of the
case out of which the contempt arose.
The contemned court's
jurisdiction does not extend from the original case to this
new and independent matter.
A misdemeanor criminal contempt action, like most other
misdemeanors punishable by up to 6 months in jail or $500.00
or both, may only be brought in the Justice Court.
3-10-303 ( I ) , 3-5-302 (1) (d), (2), MCA.
The State argues the Justice Court's power to punish for
contempt is limited by sections 3-10-401, 404, MCA.
contempt power vested in the courts by the constitution and
They cannot be construed to limit th.e Justice
"criminal contempt" found in the penal code.
It is unnecessary to reach any of the other issues
We hold the District Court has no jurisdiction over
The case is dismissed.
Mr. Justice L.C. Gulbrandson specially concurring.
I concur in the result.