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Kunstler v. Galligan

Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York, First Department
168 A.D.2d 146 (App. Div. 1991)


Facts

Famed civil rights attorney William M. Kunstler asked the court to vacate his criminal client’s conviction because a juror read media accounts of the trial and told other jurors about them. After the clerk called the case and the attorneys entered their appearances, the judge told Kunstler that his motion was denied without hearing or argument. Kunstler declared the court’s action outrageous and challenged the decision to rule without an evidentiary hearing despite law calling for one. The judge reiterated that he would not hear argument and directed the clerk to call the next case. Kunstler responded, “You have exhibited what your partisanship is. You shouldn’t be sitting in court. You are a disgrace to the bench.” The judge held Kunstler in contempt. Kunstler continued to argue, outraged. The judge responded he was giving Kunstler an opportunity to be heard. Kunstler continued on, stating that “every case in the world” requires a hearing to determine whether outside influences affected a juror, and that the judge was “violating every standard of fair play.” The judge again stated he was holding Kunstler in contempt and fined him $250 or 30 days in jail. The judge later entered written decisions denying Kunstler’s motion and detailing the reasons for the contempt order. Kunstler filed a petition to annul the contempt charge, arguing that his conduct did not justify a contempt finding and that he had no opportunity to be heard before the judge imposed punishment.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)

Dissent (Wallach, J.)

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