V. JUDGE HICKMAN
PUBLISHED: AFFIRMING IN PART AND REVERSING IN PART; DIXON (W/EMBERTON AND
DATE RENDERED: 2/23/2007
This case involves a direct contempt proceeding conducted in Anderson Circuit Court against Appellant, Jacqueline
Schroering. The underlying facts are that Attorney Schroering represented a defendant in a criminal proceeding before Judge Hickman, and apparently during a court hearing twice accused Judge Hickman of calling her a liar. Judge found her in contempt of court, and jailed her for part of the day before she returned to complete the hearing. Thereafter, Judge Hickman decided to hold a separate hearing on the contempt charge, which was held before Special Judge, Rebecca Overstreet.
Before this contempt hearing could be held, Judge Hickman issued a Finding of Summary Imposition of Contempt holding Appellant in contempt and setting a sentencing date before Judge Overstreet. At this hearing, the judge advised Appellant that her only function was to impose sentencing for the contempt finding, and subsequently issued a $250 fine. Appellant subsequently appealed, arguing that her due process rights were violated since she was not given a chance to be heard before the imposition of contempt by Judge Hickman, and further arguing that double jeopardy applied since she was both jailed and later fined for the same offense in violation of both the US and state Constitution.
On appeal, the COA conducted an analysis of civil v. criminal contempt, and found the present case to involve the latter. The COA then analyzed whether the contempt was direct or indirect, holding in this case it was direct and is of the type that may be summarily punished by the court without any fact finding done. Thus, had Judge Hickman’s finding of contempt and sanction by way of jailing Appellant ended there, the COA held that no due process issue would arise. However, once the Judge delayed the matter for a later hearing, due process attaches and Appellant’s rights were therefore violated by Judge Hickman’s entry of his Finding of Contempt before that scheduled hearing could even take place. The COA found this to be especially true when the sentencing judge (Overstreet) is not the fact-finding judge (Hickman).
On the double jeopardy claim, the COA noted that double jeopardy applies to non-summary criminal contempt prosecutions, but has never been extended to direct contempt proceedings. The COA worked around this by noting that the delay in sentencing Appellant transformed this case into a non-summary proceeding to which double jeopardy principles apply. The COA had no trouble determining that the initial jailing and subsequent fine issuance were both forms of punishment stemming from the same offense, and that Appellant’s rights were violated. As such, the COA reversed the court’s imposition of the $250 fine, but did affirm the initial entry of contempt.