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CAMMER V. UNITED STATES, 350 U. S. 399 (1956)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Cammer v. United States, 350 U.S. 399 (1956)

Cammer v. United States

No. 110

Argued January 24, 1956

Decided March 12, 1956

350 U.S. 399


A lawyer is not the kind of "officer" who can be tried summarily for contempt under 18 U.S.C. § 401(2), which empowers a court of the United States to punish as contempt "[m]isbehavior of any of its officers in their official transactions." Pp. 350 U. S. 399-408.

(a) This section derives from the Contempt Act of March 2, 1831, 4 Stat. 487, and should be narrowly construed, because its legislative history shows that Congress intended drastically to limit the contempt power of federal courts, and because the exercise of any broader contempt power would permit too great inroads on the procedural safeguards of the Bill of Rights. Pp. 350 U. S. 403-404.

(b) The term "officers," as used in 18 U.S.C. § 401(2), should not be expanded beyond the group of persons -- such as marshals, bailiffs, court clerks, and judges -- who serve as conventional court officers and are regularly treated as such in the laws. P. 350 U. S. 405.

(c) The legislative history of the 1831 Act is completely inconsistent with a purpose to treat lawyers as "officers of the court" subject to summary punishment. Pp. 350 U. S. 405-408.

___ U.S.App.D.C. ___, 223 F.2d 322, reversed.

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