Superior Court of the Virgin Islands
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Rules Governing the
Superior Court of the Virgin Islands

Rule 138. Summary disposition

A criminal contempt may be punished summarily if the judge certifies that he saw or heard the conduct constituting the contempt and that it was committed in the actual presence of the court, or in all instances of failure to obey a summons or subpoena of the court if properly served. The order of a contempt shall recite the facts and shall be signed by the judge and entered of record after the defendant is given an opportunity to be heard.

Case Notes

Generally

Requirements

Sanctions

Generally

Neither Fed. R. Crim. P. 42(a) nor V.I. Terr. Ct. R. 138 permits summary contempt proceedings if the contempt is not committed in the actual presence of the court. In re Horton, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3054, -- V.I. --, -- F. Supp. 2d -- (D.C.V.I. Feb. 5, 2003).

Neither Fed. R. Crim. P. 42(a) nor Terr. Ct. R. 138 permits summary contempt proceedings if the contempt was not committed in the actual presence of the court; however, Rule 42 does permit the judge to act summarily when the contempt involves disrespect to or criticism of the judge, provided it occurs in the judge's presence. Government of V.I. v. Santiago, D.C.V.I. 1996, 35 V.I. 130, 937 F. Supp. 1157.

To evoke the rule governing summary criminal contempt, the contempt must not only be committed directly under the eye or within the view of the court, but must be an open threat to the orderly procedure of the court and a flagrant defiance of the person and presence of the judge before the public. Government of V.I. v. Santiago, D.C.V.I. 1996, 35 V.I. 130, 937 F. Supp. 1157.

Requirements

To evoke the rule governing summary criminal contempt, the contempt must not only be committed directly under the eye or within the view of the court, but must be an open threat to the orderly procedure of the court and a flagrant defiance of the person and presence of the judge before the public. Additionally, in the rare instances in which summary contempt proceedings are appropriate, the judge must prepare a certificate, asserting that he saw or heard the conduct constituting the contempt and it was committed in the actual presence of the court, and the certificate, or order of contempt, must recite the facts constituting the contempt and must be signed by the judge and entered of record. In re Horton, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3054, -- V.I. --, -- F. Supp. 2d -- (D.C.V.I. Feb. 5, 2003).

Under V.I. Terr. Ct. R. 138, a judge is required to certify that the judge saw or heard the conduct constituting the contempt and that it was committed in the actual presence of the court. In re Horton, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3054, -- V.I. --, -- F. Supp. 2d -- (D.C.V.I. Feb. 5, 2003).

Sanctions

Since it was clear that Fed. R. Crim. P. 42, V.I. Terr. Ct. R. 138-140, and 14 V.I.C. ' 581 et seq., allowed for sanctions against individual attorneys who showed a willful disregard of the court's authority, the appeals court rejected the public defender's argument that any sanctions imposed by the court had to be imposed against the public defender's office. In re Horton, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3054, -- V.I. --, -- F. Supp. 2d -- (D.C.V.I. Feb. 5, 2003).

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