Appeal Court Overturns Ruling of Woman Held in Contempt for Cell Phone Ringing in Court

By Kamika Dunlap on April 05, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A Florida appeal court overturned a ruling of contempt over a woman whose cell phone rang loudly inside a courtroom.

The court ruled that a judge went too far by stopping proceedings an ordering a cell phone to be tossed into the garbage after it rang in the court.

Learning of the court's ruling, Michelle McRoy said she was glad that she was no longer held in contempt of court, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

The appeals court ruling concluded that McRoy's actions did not meet the necessary legal standards for contempt.

Although McRoy admitted that she hadn't checked to see that it was turned off after her sister used it outside the courtroom, the appeal court judge said there was not sufficient legal grounds or evidence to hold her in contempt.

During the courtroom incident last year, the judge stopped court proceedings and ordered that McRoy's cell phone be destroyed.

In general, contempt is behavior that hinders, or obstructs and opposes or defies the authority, justice or dignity of the court.

Typically, contempt of court is when misconduct impairs the fair and efficient administration of justice. Contempt statutes generally require that the actions present a clear and present danger that threatens the administration of justice.

In addition, the discretion permitted to judges in determining what is contempt and how to punish it has led some legal scholars to argue that the contempt power gives too much authority to judges.

For McRoy, the appeal court called McCoy's actions "annoying" but the ruling found she did not embarrass the judge or obstruct justice.

She is now hoping to get her cell phone back.


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