Hardy v. Superior Court
A summary contempt proceeding may be found in substantial compliance with Practice Book §1-16 when the record makes it clear that the proceeding served the provision's overarching purpose to ensure fairness in the adjudication of summary contempt by requiring that no one be convicted of that crime unless he was on notice of the charge against him and given an opportunity to allocute. Jermaine Hardy appeared for a pretrial hearing on pending criminal charges. The court continued the matter and Hardy began complaining to his attorney. The court indicated that it was "done" with Hardy's case and ready to proceed to the next matter. Something occurred off record to cause the court to order Hardy out of the court room. The marshal told Hardy to "[k]nock it off." The court ordered the marshal to bring Hardy back. An exchange ensued during which Hardy complained about the marshal's treatment of him and hurled expletives and the court summarily convicted and sentenced Hardy for criminal contempt. Hardy brought this writ of error claiming that because the court did not inform him of the charge or afford him an opportunity to present exculpatory or mitigating evidence, his conviction violated the due process clauses of the federal and state constitutions and Practice Book §1-16. The majority of the Supreme Court dismissed the writ finding the conviction proper. The entire panel found the claim subject to review. The majority concluded that the challenged proceeding substantially complied with Practice Book §1-16 and that Hardy was on notice of the nature of his misconduct and availed himself of an opportunity to give an explanation for that misconduct. The majority ruled that, as here, the trial court may afford an alleged contemnor only the briefest of allocutions if he already has availed himself of the opportunity to give an explanation for his conduct and, in his brief allocution, makes it clear that, if he were to allocute more extensively, he simply would repeat his earlier explanation. Further, although contrary federal authority exists of such a requirement, to the extent that the federal and state constitutions required notice and an opportunity to allocute, the trial court substantially complied with that requirement. Justice Harper, with whom Chief Justice Rogers joined, dissented disagreeing that there was substantial compliance with the notice and allocution requirements of Practice Book §1-16.