United States v. Britton, No. 12-3711 (7th Cir. 2013)Annotate this Case
Brindley and Thompson entered appearances as counsel for one of two defendants charged with drug offenses. A joint trial was scheduled. Both moved for continuance; the court set a hearing and ordered defendants counsel to be present. Thompson was present; Brindley was not. At a subsequent status conference, the court scheduled a jury trial and set a deadline for pretrial motions. Britton did not file any motions. On November 6, the court set a status conference for November 26 to discuss pretrial motions and ordered Brindley “to be present in person … not through other counsel.” Defendant appeared, but Brindley and Thompson did not and did not contact the court. The court set a show cause hearing; Brindley moved for continuance, claiming that he had not seen the order and had obligations in another trial. He apologized. The district court denied the motion and ordered Brindley to appear on November 30. Brindley appeared, but the court rejected his explanations as lies, held Brindley in contempt under Fed. R. Crim. P. 42(b), and remanded him to custody for two days. The Seventh Circuit vacated. The court erred in using Fed. R. Crim. P. 42(b)ʹs summary contempt procedures, which apply only when there is a compelling reason for an immediate remedy, contempt occurred in the judge’s presence, and the judge saw or heard the contemptuous conduct. The court noted that if the district court chooses, on remand, to proceed under 18 U.S.C. 401, a different judge will preside.