Bloom v. Illinois


DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)

CITATION: 391 US 194 (1968)
ARGUED: Jan 16, 1968 / Jan 17, 1968
DECIDED: May 20, 1968

Facts of the case


Media for Bloom v. Illinois

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 17, 1968 in Bloom v. Illinois

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 16, 1968 in Bloom v. Illinois

Earl Warren:

Number 52, S.Edward Bloom versus Illinois.

Mr. Eben.

Anthony Bradley Eben:

Thank you Your Honor.

Mr. Chief Justice, associate justices, may it please the court.

Each time that I have the pleasure of appearing before this Court, I have taken the liberty at the outset of calling the attention of the Court to the fact that I am somewhat hard of hearing.

And each time in the past when I have done that Mr. Justice Frankfurter invariably would ask me whether or not I made that statement in order to avoid having the Court ask me any questions and each time, I always replied to Mr. Justice Frankfurter that I'm welcome to questions and that I only make the statement to the end that the Court will bear with me a little if I do not seem to -- at first, to hear what you have to say to me.

This case Your Honors again, brings to this Court the troublesome question and I say troublesome because it has bothered the Court in the past on three separate occasions.

The question deals with the right to a trial by jury in a criminal contempt case.

As the Court will recall, this matter has come before Your Honors in the past as recently as in Cheff v. Schnackenberg, and prior to that in the Barnett case and prior to that in the Green case.

In every instance, the Court has split one way or another and have stated their diverge views with great strength.

The matter actually comes here now upon the grant of a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of the State of Illinois to review a judgment by that court which affirmed a judgment added in the probate court of Cook County against the petitioner who was charged with criminal contempt of that court.

Now the conduct upon which the petitioner was brought to trial in that court related to his alleged filing in the Court of a spurious will, a will alleged in the pleadings to have been prepared by the petitioner subsequent to the death of the decedent.

The petitioner is a member of the Bar of the State of Illinois actually.

In the pleading, it is said that he prepared this in his office with the aid of his stenographer that thereafter he procured witnesses who signed it after the death of the decedent that he then filed the will with the clerk, with probate court and that he then presented it for admission.

When the case came on for trial, we asked for a jury.

Our request for a jury was timely at the Illinois law.

The trial judge saw fit to deny that request and the trial was then entered upon and consumed approximately 10 days.

At the conclusion of the trial, the petitioner was found guilty of all of those matters which I have already described to the Court.

And the order recited that he was in delegation of the dignity of the Court and of the orderly processes of the Court.

Also during the trial, a fact issue was raised as to the guilt or innocence of petitioner.

That fact issue was raised by the testimony of a psychiatrist who testified that a part of his examination of petitioner and upon a hypothetical question that the petitioner could not possibly have possessed the benevolent intent which is necessary at the State of Illinois to support a charge of criminal contempt.

The portion of this case which makes it somewhat different than the cases which have come to the Court's attention in the past lies in the fact here that the conduct complaint of as pleaded in the petition constitutes a felony under the criminal code of the State of Illinois of 1961.

It constitutes a felony under the provisions of Section 17-3 of that code which to deals with forgery and makes it a felony punishable by a sentence of one to 14 years for one who utters knowingly a forged document.

Earl Warren:

What was the punishment here?

Anthony Bradley Eben:

I'm sorry, what?

Earl Warren:

What was the punishment here?

Anthony Bradley Eben:

The petitioner was sentenced to two years in the common jail of Cook County and is presently at large on bail pending his appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court and then the grant of certiorari here.

Now, the case also presents two other constitutional questions which I hope to come to later because I would like to have the main impact of my argument centered on the question of the right to trial by jury in this type of case.

But at passing, so that it will come as no surprise to the Court, we also alleged that the trial judge had a secret report furnished him by an amicus curiae who was appointed by him and that this report was only made limitedly available to us at the trial and not at its entirety.

And the third constitutional point deals with the question of a comment by the prosecutor at the conclusion of the summary that the petitioner in that case have failed to take the stand.