Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Inherent Contempt

An idea picked up from the Randi Rhodes show this afternoon from a very astute caller:
Congress should use the process of inherent contempt to compel unruly witnesses to testify and/or to punish them for refusing to testify. Such persons can be arrested immediately and taken to court to face charges. I love it...I would certainly love to see VP Cheney in handcuffs and marched off to court. But, for tomorrow, it is about Miers. Instead of criminal contempt charges, perhaps inherent contempt would be the better way to go.
Here is what inherent contempt is, from Wikipedia:

Inherent contempt

Under this process, the procedure for holding a person in contempt involves only the chamber concerned. Following a contempt citation, the person cited for contempt is arrested by the Sergeant-at-Arms for the House or Senate, brought to the floor of the chamber, held to answer charges by the presiding officer, and then subject to punishment that the House may dictate (usually imprisonment for punishment reasons, imprisonment for coercive effect, or release from the contempt citation.)

Concerned with the time-consuming nature of a contempt proceeding and the inability to extend punishment further than the session of the Congress concerned (under Supreme Court rulings), Congress created a statutory process in 1857. While Congress retains its "inherent contempt" authority and may exercise it at any time, this inherent contempt process was last used by the Senate in 1934, against the Postmaster-General. After a one-week trial in the Senate floor (presided by the Vice-President of the United States, acting as Senate President), the Postmaster-General was found guilty and sentenced to 10 days imprisonment.

The Postmaster General had filed a petition of Habeas Corpus in federal courts to overturn his arrest, but after litigation, the US Supreme Court ruled that Congress had acted constitutionally, and denied the petition in the case Jurney v. MacCracken, 294 U.S. 125 (1945). [1]

Sounds like a good idea to me. certainly one worth serious consideration by Congress.
Thanks Randi, and Randi caller.
Call your legislators, people, and tell them to give it a try. A barrage of calls and e-mails might just do the trick.

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