Contempt-Injunctions-Federal Civil Contempt Decree Orders Deputy Sheriff To Resign From Office-Lance v. Plummer

During the summer of 1964, a federal district judge issued an injunction prohibiting various St. Augustine, Florida organizations and other persons with notice of the injunction from harassing or intimidating Negroes who were seeking motel or restaurant accommodations. Appellant Lance, an unpaid volunteer deputy sheriff, was not a member of any of the enjoined organizations, but he had actual notice of the order. Nonetheless, six days after the injunction was issued, he engaged in activities designed to intimidate a Negro citizen. In a subsequent civil contempt action arising from these activities, the federal district judge, asserting jurisdiction over him because of his actual knowledge of the injunction, found appellant in contempt. Appellant was not only ordered to pay a small compensatory fee to the complaining party, but, in addition, he was compelled to resign his position as deputy sheriff and to cease acting under color of authority as a law enforcement officer. On appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, held, affirmed, except that the prohibition from acting as a deputy was modified so as to continue only until such time as appellant could satisfy the trial court that he would thereafter comply with the injunctive order. The court noted that it could assert jurisdiction over a person acting in concert with a class of enjoined defendants and that it has the power to remove such a person from public office in order to secure compliance with the injunctive order. The Supreme Court denied appellant’s petition for a writ of certiorari, Justices Black and Harlan dissenting in written opinions.