Rule 139. Disposition; notice and hearing
(a) Form of notice, how given. A criminal contempt, except as provided in
Rule 138 shall be prosecuted on notice, and if it occurs in a cause it shall be
prosecuted in the cause in which it occurs. The notice shall state the time and
place of hearing, allowing a reasonable time for the preparation of the
defense, and shall state the essential facts constituting the contempt charged.
The notice may be given orally by the judge in open court in the presence of
the person charged with contempt, or by an order to show cause or an order of
(b) Bail. If the person charged with contempt gives to the clerk of the
court in which the contempt is being prosecuted, a good and sufficient bond or
cash deposit in lieu thereof for his appearance at the hearing, approved by the
judge of the court, he shall be admitted to bail pending the hearing.
(c) Designation of prosecutor . The court may designate as the prosecutor
of the proceedings, the Attorney General of the Virgin Islands, or any other
attorney of this territory.
(d) Disqualification of judge. Except as provided in Rule 138, if the
contempt charged involves disrespect to or criticism of a judge, that judge is
disqualified from presiding at the trial or hearing except with the consent of
the person charged with contempt.
(e) Pleas. Where an order to show cause is made, the person charged with
contempt may, not later than one day before the return day of the order, or
within such time as the court may allow, serve an answer or an answering
affidavit, or he may plead orally at the hearing.--Amended Oct. 14, 1994, eff.
Nov. 16, 1994.
Authority of court
Authority of court
Although the territorial judiciary may designate the Attorney General or
the United States Attorney to prosecute criminal contempt proceedings, it is
equally authorized to designate a private disinterested attorney to do so.
Government of V.I. v. Santiago, D.C.V.I. 1996, 35 V.I. 130, 937 F. Supp. 1157.
Where the trial judge failed to follow the procedure set forth in V. I.
Terr. Ct. R. 139, the trial judge's actions constituted reversible error. In re
Horton, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3054, -- V.I. --, -- F. Supp. 2d -- (D.C.V.I.
Feb. 5, 2003).
Since the public defender's alleged contemptuous behavior occurred
outside the actual presence of the trial court and the trial court did not
certify that it saw or heard the conduct constituting contempt as required by
V.I. Terr. Ct. R. 139, the summary disposition of the contempt was improper and
the public defender was entitled to due process protections, including the
right to counsel. In re Horton, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3054, -- V.I. --, -- F. Supp.
2d -- (D.C.V.I. Feb. 5, 2003).
Where a private attorney was undeniably counsel for the parties who were
the beneficiaries of the Court Order under review, the attorney's appointment
or ratification to act as special private prosecutor by the Court constituted
reversible error, regardless of the facts and circumstances. Government of V.I.
v. Santiago, D.C.V.I. 1996, 35 V.I. 130, 937 F. Supp. 1157.
While the refusal by the correctional officers and officials to follow
the court's handwritten release Order constituted disrespect to the judge, the
act was done outside of his presence, and the contempt charge was prosecuted
"on notice" in accordance with Terr. Ct. R. 139(d) and/or Fed. R.
Crim. P. 42(b); however, permitting the judge to preside over the contempt
proceeding without the consent of the correctional officers and officials
charged, constituted reversible error. Government of V.I. v. Santiago, D.C.V.I.
1996, 35 V.I. 130, 937 F. Supp. 1157.
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