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Gompers v. United States


In 1958, in Green v. United States, the Court cited Gompers v. United States as a case which discussed the relationship between criminal contempts and jury trial and that had concluded or assumed that criminal contempts are not subject to jury trial. In Gompers, the Court construed that summary trials were permitted in contempt cases because at common law contempt was tried without a jury. Until United States v. Barnett (1964), the Court consistently upheld the constitutional power of the state and federal courts to punish any criminal contempt without a jury trial and Gompers was cited as precedent for this. In Bloom v. Illinois, the Court noted that criminal contempt is a crime in the ordinary sense; it is a violation of the law, a public wrong which is punishable by fine or imprisonment or both. The Court quoted Justice Holmes, writing for the majority in Gompers v. United States: "These contempts are infractions of the law, visited with punishment as such. If such acts are not criminal, we are in error as to the most fundamental characteristic of crimes as that word has been understood in English speech." The Court concluded that convictions for criminal contempt are indistinguishable from ordinary criminal convictions, for their impact on the individual defendant is the same. Indeed, the role of criminal contempt and that of many ordinary criminal laws seem identical--protection of the institutions of our government and enforcement of their mandates.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1883 to 1917Gompers v. United States - Significance, The Provisions Of The Constitution Are Not Mathematical Formulas, Impact, Samuel Gompers