Groppi v. Leslie

LOCATION: Leon County Courthouse

DOCKET NO.: 70-112
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

CITATION: 404 US 496 (1972)
ARGUED: Nov 10, 1971
DECIDED: Jan 13, 1972

Sverre O. Tinglum - for respondent
William M. Coffey - for petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Groppi v. Leslie

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 10, 1971 in Groppi v. Leslie

Warren E. Burger:

70-112, Groppi against Leslie.

Mr. Coffey you may proceed.

William M. Coffey:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This matter is before the Court on a petition for a Writ of Certiorari United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

The pertinent facts out of which this matter arose are as follows.

On October 1, 1969 the Assembly, one of the two Houses of the State of Wisconsin legislature passed a resolution reciting that two days earlier on September 29th, 1969, the petitioner led a gathering of the people which by its presence on the floor of the Assembly during a meeting prevented the Assembly from conducting its business.

The resolution found the petitioner's conduct constituted disorderly conduct in the immediate view of the House and directly tending to interrupt its proceedings.

The resolution then cited the petitioner for contempt and ordered that he be imprisoned in the Dane County Jail for a period of six months or for the balance of the legislative session whichever was briefer.

Petitioner was given no notice of the charge against him and was given no hearing of any kind, either before the resolution was passed or after the resolution was passed.

Warren E. Burger:

Was the petitioner taken in to custody in the house itself where the disorder was --?

William M. Coffey:

No your honor.

Chief Justice, the disturbance had occurred two days previously and --

Warren E. Burger:

What I was asking, was there any effort to take him into custody at the time he was on the floor?

William M. Coffey:

None at all.

At the time, the resolution was passed, the petitioner was in fact incarcerated in the Dane County Jail under a disorderly conduct charge which had been placed against him arising out of the same conduct dealt with the legislative resolution.

The petitioner was served with copy of the resolution and he was then confined in the Dane County Jail pursuant to the authority of the resolution.

After this, he was served with the copy of the resolution, he instituted various legal actions contesting the constitutionality of the procedures employed by the legislature in imprisoning him for six months.

Writs of Habeas Corpus were denied by the Circuit Court of Dane County and by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

A petition for writ of habeas corpus was filed in the United State District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.

A response was filed and the District Court thereupon released the petitioner on bail, pending the determination of the writ of habeas corpus.

Bail had been denied to the petitioner by both the Circuit Court of Dane County and by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

All of the petitions for habeas corpus filed by the petitioner alleged that he had been denied Due Process law and that he had been denied the right to be represented by counsel, the right to a trial or a hearing of any kind, the right to compulsory process.

The right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him.

The right to confront his accusers and the right to present his defense, the alleged charges.

On April 8th, 1970 the District Court held that the legislative assembly could not summarily impose a jail sentence for a legislative contempt without first providing the petitioner some minimal opportunity to appear and respond to the charge.

The Court granted the writ and ordered the petitioner, release under any further restrain or custody pursuant to the resolution.

The respondent appealed the decision of the District Court of Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and on appeal the judgment of the District Court was reversed.

Subsequently the Court of Appeals granted petitioner's request for re-hearing on bond and in a 4:3 decision affirmed the earlier decision of the Court of Appeals.

The issues presented on the appeal are whether a legislative body can consistent with due process law two days after alleged contemptuous conduct, ex parte impersonate person under its contempt power without giving the person any notice of the charge against him or any opportunity, whatsoever to appear before the legislative body and respond to the charges.

The second issue is whether consistent with a due process clause, a person can be found in contempt to the legislative body when the contempt resolutions sets forth mere conclusion and failed to set forth any of the underlying facts and circumstances which constituted the alleged contemptuous behavior.