Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Supreme Case of Contempt

A tragic legal saga paved the way for civil rights protections and federal habeas actions

June 2009 Issue
By Mark Curriden

Note: Register for this month's CLE, "A Turn-of-the-Century Lynching that Launched 100 Years of Federalism," from 1-2 p.m. ET on Wednesday, June 17.

The case was United States v. Shipp. There were nine defendants, all charged with contempt of court—contempt of the Supreme Court, that is. The U.S. attorney general had filed the charges against them directly with the court, thus giving it original jurisdiction in the matter. The petition alleged that the defendants and other people engaged in actions “with the intent to show their contempt and disregard for the orders of this honorable court ... and for the purpose of preventing Ed Johnson from exercising and enjoying a right secured to him by the Constitution and laws of the United States.”

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