One can spend a long time in jail in the U.S. without ever being charged with a crime.This is another example of how judges have too much power.
It happened to H. Beatty Chadwick, a former Philadelphia-area lawyer, who has been behind bars for nearly 14 years without being charged.
Businessman Manuel Osete spent nearly three years in an Arizona jail without ever receiving a criminal charge. And investment manager Martin Armstrong faced a similar situation when he was held for more than six years in a Manhattan jail.
All three men were jailed for civil contempt, a murky legal concept. Some scholars say it is too often abused by judges, to the detriment of those charged and their due-process rights. "These results of too many civil-contempt confinements are flatly outrageous and often unconstitutional," says Jayne Ressler, a professor at Brooklyn Law School.
In some contexts, the federal system limits civil-contempt confinement to 18 months. Some states have similar limits. But in other states, judges face few restrictions on how long someone can be held in civil contempt.
A judge generally can issue either a civil or criminal contempt charge whenever he or she feels that a party has disobeyed an order or has disrupted a proceeding.
Thursday, January 08, 2009
Judges can abuse contempt power
A reader says that I am lucky that Cmr. Irwin Joseph could only give me 5 days in jail for contempt of court. The Wall St. Journal reports: