Colten v. Kentucky

LOCATION: Christian County, Kentucky

DOCKET NO.: 71-404
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: Kentucky Supreme Court

CITATION: 407 US 104 (1972)
ARGUED: Apr 17, 1972
DECIDED: Jun 12, 1972

Alvin L. Goldman -
Alvin L. Goodman - for appellant
Robert W. Willmott, Jr. - for appellee, pro hac vice, by special leave of Court

Facts of the case


Media for Colten v. Kentucky

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 17, 1972 in Colten v. Kentucky

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next in 71-404, Colten against Kentucky.

Mr. Goldman, you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Alvin L. Goldman:

Thank you.

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the court.

The appellant in this case Louis Colten was convicted under the Kentucky Disorderly Conduct Statute, Kentucky's Revised Statutes, 437-016.

He was convicted under provision (f) of that statute, which can be found on page 2 of the brief.

The provision under which he was convicted, would read as follows.

A person is guilty of disorderly conduct if, with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, he congregates with other persons in a public place and refuses to comply with a lawful order of the police to disperse.

Two issues are presented in this case with respect to that provision.

One, whether the Kentucky Court of Appeals construction of that provision has rendered it unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment.

The other, whether the application of that statute to the facts in this case, is unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment.

The proceeding under which Mr. Colten was convicted, under which he was convicted in the judgment from which this appeal is being taken involves a two step trial procedure.

In Kentucky, misdemeanors carrying potential penalty of up to 12 months imprisonment and up to $500 fine, can be tried in an inferior criminal court as was Mr. Colten tried in an inferior criminal court in this situation, the Quarterly Court of Fayette County.

The only way an appeal can be taken from that inferior court is by filing for a trial de novo in the court of general jurisdiction, the Circuit Court.

This is what Mr. Colten did in order to frame his constitutional challenges when he was convicted in the inferior court.

When he was tried the second time, he was again convicted, but this time the penalty imposed upon him was increased.

That aspect of the case raises the third issue presented before this Court.

Warren E. Burger:

And what was the increased penalty?

Alvin L. Goldman:

In his case, it was a five-fold increase in a monetary penalty and increase from a $10 fine to a $50 fine.

In other case, pending before this Court on a petition for certiorari cases, Bell v. Commonwealth, number 70-5304, involves a much more dramatic increase in penalty.

In that case, the man had been fined and Quarterly Court $1 plus cost, cost paying a statutory requirement in Kentucky.

When he was retried in the Circuit Court, he will receive the penalty of $500 fine and 5 months 28 days imprisonment.

That case also was brought under this disorderly conduct statute.

Warren E. Burger:

Mr. Goldman, it may of no significance.

Are the inferior court magistrates, lawyers or laymen in Kentucky?

Alvin L. Goldman:

In the particular court in which Mr. Colten and Mr. Bell were tried, the court commissioner is a lawyer.

The situation with respect to the Quarterly Courts, is that they are adjuncts of the County Court.

The County Court is for the most part an administrative position.

The County judge is in essence the County Administrator in Kentucky.

The vast majority of County judges in Kentucky are not lawyers.