Contempt Of Court

Utter contempt

The TV news trucks and camera crews have disappeared from ACLL’s neighborhood, here at the intersection of Oak Street and 12th in downtown Oakland.  The news staffs are no longer hovering because the jury in the Ghost Ship Trial (AC Superior Ct. No. 17-CR-017349 A/B)* is on hiatus from deliberations until after Labor Day.  The sidewalks, no-parking areas, and curbside planted areas around the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse are no longer occupied throughout the day.  No longer is anyone on standby waiting for the announcement of the verdict in the involuntary manslaughter (CA Penal Code 192(b)) trial of Max Harris and Derick Almena related to a fire in an Alameda County structure that resulted in the deaths of 36 people.

Recently, the judge in the case removed and replaced three jurors for reasons not yet made public. Reports state that the judge is considering bringing contempt charges against the dismissed jurors.

“Contempt” is a common English word, in use since the 14th century – the act or state of despising.  It is also used in legal contexts.  For anyone wishing to research legal topics in the news, Alameda County Law Library is here.  ACLL’s mission is to provide equitable access to legal information materials to our county – self-represented litigants, legal professionals, and others engaged in legal research or the preparation of legal documents.  A professional law librarian can help you navigate our print and digital collections.

For the legal uses of “contempt”, Black’s Law Dictionary gives you definitions for the term and its use in legal phrases.  CEB’s California Criminal Law Procedure and Practice, one of the most useful California criminal law practice guides, contains Chapter 58 on contempt.  One section (§58.5) reviews California’s code provisions found in the Code of Civil Procedure, CCP §1209(a), which state behaviors relating to jurors.

  • Disobedience by a juror of a court admonishment related to the prohibition on any form of communication or research about the case, including all forms of electronic or wireless communication or research;  …
  • Unlawfully failing to attend or serve as a juror after having been summoned;
  • While serving as juror, improperly conversing with a party to an action to be tried at the court, or with any other person, in relation to the merits of the action, or receiving a communication from a party or other person in respect to the action, without immediately disclosing it to the court; …

Or, a library user might wish to research law reviews and articles using HeinOnline to find articles such as, “Preventing Juror Misconduct in a Digital World” by Thaddeus Hoffmeister, Juries and Lay Participation: American Perspectives and Global Trends, 90 Chicago-Kent Law Review 981 (2015).

The public will have to wait to find out more about what might happen to the former Ghost Ship jurors.  But legal researchers are able to start research at ACLL during our business hours – MWF 8:30 am – 4:30 pm | Tues, Thurs 8:30 am – 7:30 pm | Sat 9:00 am – 3:00 pm.

For more information or assistance in researching legal topics, contact the ACLL reference staff at 510-208-4832.

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