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12/27/93 XAVIER MCCORMICK v. UNITED STATES

December 27, 1993

XAVIER MCCORMICK, APPELLANT
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia; (Hon. Reggie B. Walton, Trial Judge)

Before Ferren and Wagner, Associate Judges, and Newman, Senior Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ferren

FERREN, Associate Judge: Judge Walton summarily convicted appellant of criminal contempt under Super. Ct. Crim. R. 42 (a) (1993) for angrily pointing his finger at the Judge as appellant left the courtroom after witnessing a sentencing of a friend or relative. The Judge sentenced appellant to 90 days in jail. Appellant contends that, because the summary conviction and sentencing under Rule 42 (a) were not immediately necessary to vindicate the trial court's authority, the Judge violated appellant's constitutional right to due process. In addition, appellant contends that the Judge's failure to recuse himself violated appellant's right to a fair and impartial tribunal. We agree with appellant that, by conducting a summary contempt proceeding under the circumstances presented here, the Judge violated appellant's constitutional right to due process. The Judge should have proceeded, if at all, under the non-summary contempt procedures of Super. Ct. Crim. R. 42 (b), affording appellant notice of the charges, a reasonable time to prepare the defense, and a hearing. Accordingly, because appellant has already served his 90 day sentence, we reverse appellant's contempt conviction and order the proceedings dismissed as "just in the circumstances." D.C. Code § 17-306 (1989). *fn1

I.

On September 24, 1992, appellant attended the sentencing of Damanual Quarles before Judge Walton. According to the Contempt Citation, after the Judge had announced Quarles' sentence, appellant "became obviously upset" and "stormed to the inner courtroom doors with two friends in apparent anger." Appellant "flung" open the doors, "angrily said something to his friends," "turned back to the bench," and pointed at the Judge. Appellant's "friends then tried to pull him from the courtroom and finally succeeded in getting him to leave."

The deputy United States Marshal assigned to the Judge's courtroom, a member of the courthouse security force, returned appellant to the courtroom. The court then conducted the following summary contempt hearing:

THE COURT: Young man, what is your name?

MR. McCORMICK: My name is Xavier McCormick, sir.

THE COURT: Sir, why did you go outside of that door and turn back around and look at me and point at me? Do you have a problem with the sentence I imposed?

MR. McCORMICK: No, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Yes, you did, sir. And you're not going to come into my courtroom and try and intimidate anybody. Number one, you did not intimidate nobody. Nobody is afraid of you in this courtroom.

MR. McCORMICK: Excuse me, may I speak?

THE COURT: No. You went out there, and you opened the door, and you looked back, and you pointed ...


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