In Re: Kendall, No. 11-4471 (3d Cir. 2013)Annotate this Case
Former Superior Court Judge Kendall enforced an oral plea agreement that the prosecution had attempted to withdraw; Kendall believed that the defendants could not obtain a fair trial, due to prosecutorial misconduct. The Virgin Islands Supreme Court reversed and issued a writ of mandamus. Kendall published an opinion chastising the mandamus decision and recusing himself from the case due to alleged prosecutorial misconduct. The Justices cited Kendall for criminal contempt and found him guilty because his opinion, in their view, obstructed the administration of justice and because his recusal was a pretextual effort to avoid complying with the writ of mandamus. The Third Circuit reversed the judgment and vacated the contempt conviction, finding that the First Amendment protects a sitting judge from being criminally punished for his opinion unless that opinion presents a clear and present danger of prejudicing ongoing proceedings. Kendall’s opinion did not pose such a threat. There was insufficient evidence that his recusal was pretextual.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on April 16, 2013.