Johnson v. Mississippi

PETITIONER: Johnson
RESPONDENT: Mississippi
LOCATION: Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District

DOCKET NO.: 5485
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1970-1971)
LOWER COURT:

CITATION: 403 US 212 (1971)
ARGUED: Apr 21, 1971
DECIDED: Jun 07, 1971

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Johnson v. Mississippi

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 21, 1971 in Johnson v. Mississippi

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next in 5485, Johnson against Mississippi.

Mr. Porter, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Stephen W. Porter:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

My name is Stephen Porter of the law firm Williams & Connolly, seated in counsel table is Richard Rugo of the law firm Hogan & Hartson.

We are co-counsel for petitioner in this matter.

This case arises out of the conviction and sentencing of a Mississippi civil rights worker under circumstances which would appear to ignore every pronouncement and every limitation and every cautionary statement that this Court has over the years ever made on the issue of the use by a trial court of the power, without the ordinary requirements of due process to punish allegedly contumacious behavior summarily.

The salient facts briefly reviewed are as follows.

On January 27, 1969, petitioner Robert Johnson was summarily convicted by Grenada County, Mississippi Circuit Court Judge Marshall Perry for a remarked allegedly made in Judge Perry’s Court more than two years earlier.

Judge Perry sentenced petitioner for four months in jail although the maximum sentence is one month to which the Supreme Court of Mississippi later reduced the sentence.

The conviction resulted from an incident which occurred on January 24, 1967 in the judge’s courtroom.

At 9 A.M. that morning, prospective jurors of the January term occupied benches near courtroom doors, a section normally reserved for the public.

Hugo L. Black:

Is this one month sentence was stayed?

Stephen W. Porter:

Yes, Your Honor.

Hugo L. Black:

With serious evidence?

Stephen W. Porter:

Yes.

Yes, Your Honor.

This one month sentence has been stayed.

The most direct route to seats reserved for defendants in pending cases before the term involved walking in front of these jurors.

Judge Perry announced that anyone entering the Court while in session would be required to use an aisle in the rear and this announcement was made approximately five or ten minutes before Robert Johnson appeared in Court.

When petitioner Johnson arrived, he walked via the most direct route to the seats reserved for the prospective defendants and as he did he walked in front of the jurors.

Potter Stewart:

And he was there as a defendant in case that’s going to be tried that day?

Stephen W. Porter:

Yes, Your Honor whether or not he was going to be tried that day.

It was the opening day of the --

Potter Stewart:

Trial.

Stephen W. Porter:

-- of this term.

Potter Stewart:

And he was --

Stephen W. Porter:

And he was required --

Potter Stewart:

A defendant in one of the cases that the Court was going to try during that term.

Stephen W. Porter:

Yes, Your Honor.

Petitioner Johnson was apprehended by the Deputy Sheriff who ordered him to walk around to the rear.