MLive.com has two different stories of individuals being found in contempt of court, Yesterday, Barton Deiters reported on Ryan Lasenby being found in contempt of court by Kent County Circuit Court Judge James Robert Redford in Grand Rapids, Michigan and facing either a $100 fine or 10 days in the Kent County Jail. What had Mr. Lasenby done to incur the judge's wrath? Put a hat on his head as he was leaving the courtroom.
According to the report, Mr. Lasenby was attending a friend's criminal sentencing. Mr. Lasenby's hat was not his head during the sentencing. However, after Judge Redford adjourned the hearing, Mr. Lasenby started to put his hat on as he stood up. Judge Redford saw this and told Mr. Lasenby that wearing hats was not allowed in the courtroom. Mr. Lasenby apparently walked towards the courtroom door and put the hat back on. Mr. Lasenby evidently did this despite the fact that other people were warning him not to put the hat on.
Judge Redford saw Mr. Lasenby flouting the instruction not to wear a hat and called him back into the courtroom and promptly sentenced him pay a $100 fine within 3 days or go to jail for 10 days. Mr. Lasenby asked whether he was being sentenced to 10 days for wearing a hat in court. Judge Redford replied that the sentence was for contempt of court and violating a court order. I guess the judge said this because sentencing someone to 10 days in jail for wearing a hat would clearly be ridiculous but sentencing someone to 10 days in jail for wearing a hat in violation of a court order would obviously not be ridiculous. If that distinction is not readily apparent to you, then you are not cut out to be a judge in Michigan. No word on whether Mr. Lasenby will pay the fine to avoid the jail time. I have never seen, let alone stayed at, the Kent County Jail so I can't say whether paying $10 a day not to have to be incarcerated there is a good deal. It seems like it might be.
150 miles to the Northeast of Kent County, Erick Haubenstricker was also being sentenced to jail for contempt of court. Cole Waterman reported on how Mr. Haubenstricker ran afoul of Bay County Circuit Court Judge Joseph K. Sheeran. Mr. Haubenstricker was called for jury duty and made the mistake of using profanity on his juror qualification questionnaire. You can see the questionnaire here.
Instead of answering such seemingly mundane questions as birth date, Mr. Haubenstricker wrote things like "Leave me alone!!" Please. Die in Hell Pigs/Judges/DAs." He also wrote that "Dirty Judges" should "[censored] off." I think the censored word is the F-bomb. At least I hope so because I cannot think of another expletive to put there and I would hate to think I am losing touch with the vernacular of telling people off. Mr. Haubenstricker also cleverly listed his home and work phone numbers as "911-PIGS." Get it? Those aren't really phone numbers. On the back page, Mr. Haubenstricker wrote such bon mots as "UNTRUTHFUL PIGS . . Your System is Dirty," "Never contact me AGAIN!!!," and "GET A Real Job."
Judge Sheeran was not terribly amused by Mr. Haubenstricker's actions. At Mr. Haubenstricker's sentencing, Judge Sheeran said that he was initially concerned that Mr. Haubenstricker was mentally ill. It turned out that Mr. Haubenstricker was just angry. The judge pointed out that Mr. Haubenstricker is a convicted felon and ineligible to serve on a jury. Assuming that Mr. Haubenstricker's comments reflected a desire to get out of jury duty, Judge Sheeran pointed out that if Mr. Haubenstricker had simply filled out the questionnaire correctly, Mr. Haubenstricker would have been excused from jury duty. Mr. Haubenstricker would also not be spending three days in jail.
What do you think Mr. Torvik? Any First Amendment problems with Judge Sheeran's sentence? If Mr. Haubenstricker had scribbled the lyrics to Tom T. Hall's "I Love" would he have gotten the same sentence? It's not entirely clear from the report whether the problem was not filling out the form properly or the message that was conveyed on the form.
In any event, I guess the takeaway for our Reader(s)™ is that one should not wear a hat to court and always fill out court forms properly when in Michigan. Otherwise, be prepared to do hard time.