Tuesday, August 07, 2007, 9:03 PM

Criminal Contempt For Visiting Trial Court Administrator

In a case today the COA affirmed criminal contempt against a pro se party who just couldn't keep away from the courthouse.

The defendant, Simon, was involved in a foreclosure case in Forsyth County. During a hearing in the matter, Judge Spivey felt compelled to issue the following warning to Simon in open court: "[T]he Court will find that during the pendency of this action . . . the respondent has been a frequent caller to the judge's office. The staff reports to me, as I stepped out to prepare this judgment, that at times [he has made] as many as 20 phone calls a week in addition to letters, faxes, and personal visits to the judge's office. The respondent has also been discovered to be in secure areas of the courthouse, behind courtroom 5A of criminal court where prisoners are transported and when asked to leave, he was grudgingly compliant and questioned the authority of our staff to ask him to leave a secured area. . . . Based on these facts, the Court would direct that the respondent not call the judge's office about this case any further. . . . and he should not fax or come to the judge's office to speak to any staff about this case."

At a hearing six weeks later, Judge Albright reiterated the directive and warned Simon not to put himself "in a position where the Court's going to have to take action."

Three days later he did just that. He went to the judges' office area on the 5th floor of the Forsyth County Courthouse to hand-deliver to the trial court administrator a TRO motion. To do this, he entered the courthouse area that was set aside for the judges' chambers and separated from the rest of the courthouse by a door marked “Judges Offices.”

For visiting the office of the trial court administrator in violation of the court's directive to stay out of the judges' office area, Simon was held in indirect criminal contempt of court

On appeal, the COA rejected Simon's argument that he couldn't be held in contempt on the basis that Judge Spivey's and Judge Albright's orders were not reduced to writing: "a finding of criminal contempt, direct or indirect, does not require that the relevant 'process, order, directive, or instruction' be a formal written order."

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