Fla. Appeals Court Overturns Contempt Finding for Ringing Cell Phone

A Florida appeals court has reversed the contempt conviction of a woman whose ringing cell phone raised a juvenile court judge’s ire.

The appeals court said judges can’t use the power of contempt just because they feel “aggrieved or vexed,” the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Judge Anthony Johnson found Michelle McRoy in contempt last year when her cell phone rang during a court proceeding. McRoy had forgotten to turn off the device after her sister made a phone call outside the courtroom.

McRoy told the Sentinel that Johnson tossed her phone in the garbage after it rang loudly with a musical tone. Johnson “wouldn’t let me explain to him,” McRoy said. “He just went off.”

The appeals court said in its opinion (PDF) that Johnson did not cite sufficient facts to justify the contempt finding.

“Even if the order was facially sufficient,” the court said, “we would reverse the conviction of direct criminal contempt as there is no evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that Ms. McRoy’s actions, annoying as they undoubtedly were, embarrassed, hindered or obstructed the court in the administration of justice, or lessened the court’s authority or dignity.”

Story lead corrected at 9:20 a.m. to reflect that a Florida appeals court reversed the conviction.

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