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A proceeding for contempt does not amount to a process taken for vindicating the personal dignity of the Judges, and protecting them from personal insults as individuals. A contempt may be committed by a libel or slander, or personal attack on a Judge, and through him on the Court, or by an insult offered to him, and through him to the dignity of the Court; but the object and reason of the process and jurisdiction is to preserve the proceedings of the Court from being misrepresented, to prevent prejudice to the minds of the public against persons concerned as parties in causes, before the cause is finally heard, to keep the streams of Justice clear and pure that parties may proceed with safety both to themselves and to their characters, to check attempts to influence the Court, or to attack, deter, intimidate, or insult witnesses or jurymen, and generally to shield and protect those having duties to perform in Courts of Justice, in order that a cause may be tried fairly and impartially, without fear or favour, according to the law and practice of England.*
It is not necessary, therefore, to shew an actual deflection of the course of justice. There being a possibility of obstruction, the offence is constituted by the bare interference, for if the contemnor escaped with impunity because he had failed, he might be encouraged to success, and frequently, as when an attempt is made to influence the minds of possible jurors or witnesses, it cannot be established whether the object has been attained or not. +
The power of the Court is neither perfectly arbitrary and indefinite, nor precisely limited or fixed, but may be extended to new cases as they arise, provided they be within
* Re Johnson, ubi supra, S.C., Fonas v. Long, 31 Sol. Jo. 727; Roach v. Garvan; Skipworth's Case ; Helmore v. Smith, and other cases supra; Ex parte Fernandez, 1861, 30 L.J. C.P. 321.
+ Skipworth's Case, u.s.; Poor v. Sacheverel, 1720, 1 P. Wm. 676; Felkin v. Herbert, 1863, 33 L.J. Ch. 294 ; Re Mulock, 1864, 33 L.J. M. 205.
the principle of those in which the jurisdiction has been decided to exist, the Court shewing the length of its arm when occasion so requires.*
But the authority of the Court is best vindicated by reserving its extreme powers for cases which imperatively call for their exercise, and a motion ought not to be made for committal when a party has other means of working out his rights without prejudicial delay, and nierely on the ground of a technical offence, the real object being to compel payment of costs.t
It is not every Court which has any jurisdiction to punish as for contempt, while the jurisdiction of many others does not extend to contempts committed out of doors, but is limited to contempt in the face of the Court, as it is called. I It will in consequence be convenient, after shortly explaining when a proceeding is pending, to deal generally with the divers contempts which may
be committed, reserving the proper qualifications in relation to the different Courts for later consideration, so that "the Court," unless the contrary is expressly stated, or made apparent from the context, will mean the Supreme Court of Judicature.
§ ii. When a Proceeding is Pending. A civil proceeding is pending from the issue of the writ or other initiatory process so long as any proceeding can be taken in the cause. And a criminal cause, in the same way, is pending from the issue of the summons or warrant,
* Miller v. Knox, 1838, 4 Bing. N.C. 589, opinion of Williams, J. Helmore v. Smith, u.s.
† Ward v. Swift, 1848, 6 Hare 312, per Shadwell, V.C.; Re Clements, Republic of Costa Rica v. Erlanger, 1877, 46 L.J. Ch. 375, 383, per Jessel, M.R. ; Plating Co. v. Farquharson, 1881, 17 Ch. D. 49 C.A.; Hunt v. Clarke (Star), 1889, 58 L.J. Q.B. 490 ; 61 L.T. 343 ; 37 W.R. 724 C.A.
I Reg. v. Lefroy, 1873, L,R. 8 Q.B. 134, S.C. Ex parte Folliffe, 42 L.J. Q.B, Į21.
or presentment of the indictment, till the final sentence of the Court has been commenced to be put into execution, or till the defendant has been acquitted and discharged, or discharged for some other reason.*
Accordingly, the publication of comments on the conduct of the parties shortly after the issue of the writ is a contempt, although no proceedings whatever have taken place in open Court.t And, in like manner, it is a contempt to obstruct the service of a writ, or, immediately upon the institution of an action to which he is a party, to interfere with an infant.
So, again, true bills had been found by the Grand Jury at the Central Criminal Court. The indictments had been removed by certiorari into the Court of Queen's Bench, and a day fixed for the trial. At this stage speeches were delivered at a public meeting which censured the prosecution and the Crown counsel, and reflected on the trial generally. The Court had no doubt that the cause was pending before it, and inflicted a punishment for this contempt. |
To take an instance of another kind. After judgment had been given by the Chief Judge on a matter before the Court of Review, but before the minutes of the order were finally settled, V. S., the solicitor to one of the parties, published a printed circular, copies of which he distributed in the Court, containing defamatory charges against the solicitors opposed to him, and commenting in severe and disrespectful terms on the judgment. The solicitors on the
* See Salt v. Cooper, 1880, 16 Ch. D. 544; Hart v. Hart, 1881, 18 Ch. D. 670 ; Re Clagett, 1882, 20 Ch. D. 637, 653 ; Wills v. Luff, 1888
+ Daw v. Eley, 1868, L.R. 7 Eq. 49; Peters v. Bradlaugh, 1887,
Ch. D. I97:
4 T.L.R. 414.
Witham v. Witham, 1669, 3 Ch. R. 41.
Gynn v. Gilbard, 1860, 1 Dr. & Sm. 356. || Reg. v. Castro (Onslow's and Whalley's Cases), 1873, L.R. 9 Q.B. 219,
other side presenting a petition to that end, V. S. was committed.*
And though a cause be technically dead, the Judge will punish by committal or otherwise violence done or offered to the parties, witnesses, or others, at the conclusion of the case and in the vicinity of the Court.f And any violent or indecent behaviour in the face of, or in the vicinity of the Court, sedente curia, would be a contempt, though no cause had been called on before the Court. I
But (saving the ordinary law as to libel and slander) any person may comment as he pleases on a case which is concluded. § And although a cause or action may be technically pending, it is not every comment on a past stage of the proceedings which will be punished as contempt. This plainly appears from the following, among other cases :
A motion was made before Stuart, V.C., for an injunction to restrain the defendants from using the trade mark of the
By Sir Geo. Rose sitting for the C.J., Ex parte Van Sandau, re Martin, 1844, 1 Ph. 445, S.C. Ex parte Turner, 3 Mont. D. & D. 523. Order approved by Lyndhurst, L.C., ex parte Van Sandau, 1844, 14 L.J. Bk. 9, but subsequently discharged by Cottenham, L.C., on account of irregularity in the form of the writ of attachment, ex parte Van Şandau, 1846, 1 Ph. 605; 1 De G. also Van Sandau (printed Saudau) v. Turner, 1845, 14 L.J. Q.B. 154 (action for false imprisonment arising out of the committal). Ex parte Crowe, the unreported case relied on by Sir Geo. Rose, is ex parte Fones, 1806, 13
Ves. 237 (see Birch v. Walsh, 1846, 10 Ir. Eq. Rep. 93), and the same case as Re Quick, the order in which is cited by Cottenham, L.C., in the report i De G. 303.
† Rex. v. Wigley, 1835, 7 C. and P. 4.
| Ib. See In re Pater, 1864, 33 L.J. M.C. 142. D., a disappointed suitor, firing a pistol at Jessel, M.R., who had alighted from a cab at the door of the Rolls Court, and was about to proceed to his private room and thence to the Court, was taken into custody by a policeman in attendance at the Court, and afterwards tried by ordinary criminal process. Reg. v. Dodwell, Times, 16th March, 1878, S.C. Re Dodwell, Seton, 1589.
§ Re Ledger, Dallas v. Ledger, 1887, 52 J.P. 328; 4 T.L.R. 432,
plaintiffs. The plaintiffs admitted that they had known of the alleged infringements, but had not, till the then present time, taken any steps to restrain them. Upon this, the Vice-Chancellor, without calling on counsel for the defendants, directed the motion to stand over, with liberty to the plaintiffs to bring such action as they might be advised, and with liberty to apply. Three days later a report appeared in the Leeds Mercury in which it was stated that a particular fact necessary to the case of the plaintiffs had been established in evidence, and that the defendants relied on the lapse of time. The plaintiffs printed this report in the form of hand-bills, which they circulated among the trade. The defendants moved for an injunction to prevent this. This was not in form a motion for attachment or committal, but it was discussed on the same principles. It was argued that the report was false, inasmuch as it stated a certain thing to have been established in evidence, whereas no evidence was gone into on the occasion of the motion and that the defendants relied on lapse of time, whereas counsel for the defendants had not been heard. The report, it was urged, was calculated to prejudice the minds of the public, some of whom might act as jurors in an action at law then pending between the parties, and was an interference with the due administration of justice. The Vice-Chancellor refused the motion. The report, he said, was not, and could not be expected to be, a perfectly accurate report, yet it contained no such inaccuracy and no such impropriety in any part of it as to justify the motion ; and though he did not approve the publication, not being satisfied that it was a fair proceeding, it was not every unfair report that the Court would punish. His Honour directed that the costs should be costs in the cause. An appeal from this decision was dismissed by Knight Bruce and Turner, LL.J.J., the latter saying, “If we entertain this application we might have to sit here from day to day to