Article 3, Section 1

Document 29

An Act concerning Contempts of Court

3 Apr. 18095 Laws of Pa. 55 1812

Sect. I. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in General Assembly met, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, That from and after the passing of this act, the power of the judges of the several courts of this commonwealth to issue attachments and inflict summary punishments for contempts of court shall be restricted to the following cases, that is to say, To the official misconduct of the officers of such courts respectively, to the negligence or disobedience of officers, parties, jurors, or witnesses against the lawful process of the court, to the misbehavior of any person in the presence of the court, obstructing the administration of justice.

Sect. II. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That from and after the passing of this act, all publications out of court respecting the conduct of the judges, officers of the court, jurors, witnesses, parties or any of them, of, in and concerning any cause pending before any court of this commonwealth, shall not be construed into a contempt of the said court, so as to render the author, printer, publisher, or either of them, liable to attachment and summary punishment for the same [.]; but if such publication shall improperly tend to bias the minds of the public, the court, the officers, jurors, witnesses or any of them, on a question pending before the court, any person feeling himself aggrieved by such publication, shall be at liberty either to proceed by indictment, or to bring an action at law against the author, printer, publisher or either of them, and recover thereupon such damages as a jury may think fit to award.

Sect. III. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the punishment of imprisonment in the first instance shall extend only to such contempts as are committed in open court; and all other contempts shall be punished by fine only: Provided always, That the sheriff or other proper officer, may take into custody, confine or commit to jail, any person fined for a contempt, until such fine is discharged or paid; but if he shall be unable to pay such fine, such person may be committed to prison by the court for any time not exceeding three months.

Sect. IV. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That notwithstanding any thing in this act contained, the said courts shall have power respectively to make rules upon any sheriff or coroner for the return of any writ or writs for the payment of money received on any execution or process, and for the production of the body after a return of cepi corpus to an execution, or in default thereof for the payment of the debt and costs, and also to compel obedience to the said rules or any of them by attachment. And the said courts shall have the same powers against former sheriffs and coroners: Provided, That complaint and application is made for that purpose within one year after the termination of their said offices respectively.

Sect. V. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That this act shall be and continue in force for and during the term of two years from the passing thereof, and from thence unto the end of the next session of the legislature.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 4, Article 3, Section 1, Document 29
The University of Chicago Press

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