The courts' inherent power to punish misconduct that interferes with the judicial process as criminal contempt often conflicts with attorneys' first amendment and due process rights, and their clients' sixth amendment rights to vigorous legal representation. In balancing these competing interests, the Supreme Court has employed seemingly diverse standards to demarcate the constitutional limitations on the substantive scope of the contempt power. Professor Raveson argues that the Constitution should limit the contempt power so that it may only be used to punish actual obstructions of the administration of justice. He maintains that because the goals of our system of justice are frequently in opposition, the appropriate dividing line between permissible advocacy and obstruction can be drawn only by balancing the various goals of a trial in a way that maximizes the value of these interests to the system of justice as a whole. The proper balance, in turn, can only be achieved by including within the calculus of contempt recognition of the actual experiences of trial participants. Professor Raveson concludes that appropriate consideration of the value of advocacy to the processes of justice requires that advocacy sometimes be permitted to interfere with competing aims of a trial. Realization of the full value of advocacy and maximization of the various goals of our trial system require that a buffer zone be constructed surrounding valuable advocacy to afford adequate protection from punishment and to diminish deterrence.
Louis S. Raveson,
Advocacy and Contempt: Constitutional Limitations on the Judicial Contempt Power. Part One: The Conflict Between Advocacy and Contempt,
65 Wash. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.uw.edu/wlr/vol65/iss3/2