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U.S. Supreme Court

Michaelson v. United States, 266 U.S. 42 (1924)

Michaelson v. United States ex Rel. Chicago, St. Paul,

Minneapolis & Omaha Railway Company

Nos. 246 and 232

Argued April 9, 10, 1924

Decided October 20, 1924

266 U.S. 42


1. The Clayton Act, October 15, 1914, §§ 21, 22, c. 323, 38 Stat. 738, provides that any person who shall willfully disobey any writ, etc., of any district court of the United States or court of the District of Columbia, by doing any act or thing therein or thereby forbidden, if of such character as to constitute also a criminal offense under any statute of the United States or law of the state in which committed, shall be proceeded against as in the statute chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 266 U. S. 43

provided; that, in all such cases, the trial may be by the court, or, upon demand of the accused, by a jury, and shall conform,as near as may be, to the practice in criminal cases prosecuted by indictment or upon information, the accused, upon conviction, to be punished by fine or imprisonment, or both, the fine to be paid to the United States or to the complainant or other party injured by the act constituting the contempt, or, where several are so damaged, be apportioned among them as the court may direct. Concerning this,


(a) That the proceeding contemplated is for the prosecution of criminal contempts exclusively, the discretion given the court regarding the payment of fine to private complainants being incidental and subordinate to the dominating purpose of the proceeding, which is to vindicate the authority of the court and punish the act of disobedience as a public wrong. P. 266 U. S. 64.

(b) A proceeding for criminal contempt, committed by disobedience of an injunction, unlike the proceeding for civil contempt, is between the public and the defendant, is an independent proceeding at law, and no part of the original cause. Gompers v. Bucks Stove & Range Co., 221 U. S. 418. Id.

(c) The courts of the United States, when called into existence and vested with jurisdiction over any subject, at once become possessed of the power to punish for contempt, which is inherent in all courts and essential to the administration of justice. P. 266 U. S. 65.

(d) Insofar as concerns the lower federal courts, although the attributes which inhere in this power and are inseparable from it can neither be abrogated nor rendered practically inoperative, the power, within limits not precisely defined, may be regulated by Congress. P. 266 U. S. 66.

(e) The above statutory provision for a jury trial, applicable only where the act or thing complained of is also a crime in the ordinary sense, and not interfering with the power to deal summarily with contempts committed in the presence of the court, or so near thereto as to obstruct the administration of justice, nor purporting to extend to cases of failure or refusal to comply with decrees requiring affirmative action, does not invade the powers of the courts as intended by the Constitution, and is within the regulatory power of Congress. Id.

2. Section 20 of the Clayton Act, concerning the granting of injunctions "in any case between an employer and employees" involving or growing out of a dispute concerning terms or conditions of employment, includes such cases in which the employers are railroad companies. P. 266 U. S. 68.

3. Railroad employees who, in a dispute over wages, go out on strike in defiance of a decision of the Railroad Labor Board, and, in furtherance of the strike, conspire together and commit unlawful acts in restraint of the railroad's interstate commerce, remain "employees" of the railroad in the sense of § 20 of the Clayton Act. P. 266 U. S. 67.

4. In such a case, existence of the status of employment at the time when acts constituting a contempt are committed is not necessary in order to bring into operation the provision for jury trial made by § 22. P. 266 U. S. 69.

5. Abusive language, assembling in numbers, picketing, and other acts by strikers, for the purpose of intimidating and preventing men desirous of securing employment with a railway company, held prima facie violation of a penal statute of Wisconsin (R.S. 1921, § 4466c). Id.

6. Section 22 of the Clayton Act, although reading that the trial "may" be by the court, or, upon demand of the accused, by jury, is to be construed, in the light of its history and purpose, as giving the accused the absolute right of trial by jury. P. 266 U. S. 70.

291 F.9d 0 (No. 246) reversed.

The first case was a certiorari to review a judgment of the circuit court of appeals affirming a judgment of the district court which adjudged the petitioners guilty of contempt after a trial in which their request for a jury was denied.

The second ease presents a question certified by the circuit court of appeals, which is set forth in the opinion, post, p. 266 U. S. 70. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 266 U. S. 62

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