Obiter Dicta

Impertinent Invitation

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In September 2005, Judith Law of St. Matthews, S.C., was not in a good mood. Law avoided incar­ceration in 2003 when she received a break on a criminal charge against her. A potential five-year prison term for burglary was reduced to a similar term of probation and time served. But Law was now facing a hearing where she was charged with violating the terms of that sen­tencing deal.

Circuit Court Judge Diane Good­stein found Law in violation and issued an order revoking her probation, which meant she had to finish out her orig­inal five-year sentence.

Law was required to sign the order and just couldn’t resist the urge to invite the judge to plant one on her posterior—she wrote “Kiss my ass” on the signature line and asked that it be returned directly to the judge. Goodstein de­clined, and instead scheduled a contempt hearing later that day.

At the hearing, each one of those words bought Law an extra month in the clink, as her sentence was lengthened by 90 days.

Law appealed, claiming that the offending conduct took place “outside the presence of the court.”

In December the state court of appeals affirmed the contempt citation.

The appeals court said that when Law requested that her colorful notation be returned for review, it didn’t matter where she had actually signed the revocation document. “Her conduct,” said the ruling, “was in the presence of the judge.”

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