A yawn of contempt

August 13, 2009
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Sometimes, yawning can be criminal.

Just ask Clifton Williams. The Illinois resident was sentenced to six months in jail for yawning during his cousin’s guilty plea to a felony drug charge. His family maintains it was just a yawn, nothing more; the state attorney and judge felt it was disruptive and justified the criminal contempt charge.

According to a Chicago Tribune story, Circuit Judge Daniel Rozak isn’t shy about finding people in contempt. He jails people at a higher rate than any other judge in Will County. If you ever find yourself in his courtroom, make sure not to yawn, have your cell phone off, and don’t scream or shout profanities, and you should be fine.

You could argue Judge Rozak is just trying to run a tight ship, making sure that everyone in his courtroom is respectful. You could also argue he’s “trigger happy” when it comes to ordering people to jail for contempt.

Judges need to be able to control their courtroom, and I have no problem finding people in contempt. Even if Williams was loud and disruptive when yawning, does it justify a six-month sentence? Granted, he shouldn’t be in jail that long, but if that’s what you’re sentenced to, there’s always the possibility you’ll be in jail longer than you’d like. Williams has been in jail since July 23 and will serve at least 21 days.

Williams’ cousin, on the other hand, got two years probation.
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  1. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  2. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  3. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  4. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  5. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

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