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Woodward v. State

Supreme Court of Florida

December 19, 2019

JENNIFER M. WOODWARD, Petitioner,
v.
STATE OF FLORIDA, Respondent.

          Application for Review of the Decision of the District Court of Appeal - Direct Conflict of Decisions Fourth District - Case No. 4D16-2413 (Broward County)

          Carey Haughwout, Public Defender, and Benjamin Eisenberg, Assistant Public Defender, Fifteenth Judicial Circuit, West Palm Beach, Florida, for Petitioner

          Ashley Moody, Attorney General, Tallahassee, Florida, and Celia A. Terenzio, Bureau Chief, and Heidi L. Bettendorf, Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach, Florida, for Respondent

          PER CURIAM.

         We initially accepted jurisdiction to review the decision of the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Woodward v. State, 238 So.3d 290 (Fla. 4th DCA 2018), on grounds of express and direct conflict with decisions of other district courts of appeal. See art. V, § 3(b)(3), Fla. Const. Having considered the decision of the Fourth District and the parties' arguments, upon further review, we have determined that we should exercise our discretion and discharge jurisdiction. Accordingly, we hereby dismiss review.

         It is so ordered.

          CANADY, CJ, and POLSTON, LAWSON, and MUÑIZ, JJ, concur

          LABARGA, J., dissents with an opinion.

         NO MOTION FOR REHEARING WILL BE ALLOWED.

          LABARGA, J., dissenting.

         When confronted with disruptive behavior in the courtroom, our courts must be able to immediately address such conduct and restore order. To that end, I fully recognize the necessity of the direct contempt power and support its use under appropriate circumstances. Moreover, I agree with the district court's conclusion in Woodward that a verbatim transcript of direct criminal contempt proceedings is not required. However, I dissent from the majority's decision to discharge jurisdiction in this case, where the order adjudicating Woodward guilty of direct criminal contempt is inadequate to support her conviction.

         Indeed, it has long been recognized that to protect its authority and preserve the order of its proceedings, a court must be able to act swiftly and decisively to punish disruptive or disrespectful acts committed in its presence. See Ex parte Edwards, 11 Fla. 174, 186 (Fla. 1866) (explaining the contempt power "is the great bulwark established by the common law for the protection of courts of justice, and for the maintainance [sic] of their dignity, authority and efficiency"). Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.830, "Direct Criminal Contempt," authorizes courts to summarily exercise their direct contempt powers, but given the potential consequences of a contempt adjudication, the rule also provides steps that a court must take to ensure a defendant's right to due process of law. Rule 3.830 provides as follows:

A criminal contempt may be punished summarily if the court saw or heard the conduct constituting the contempt committed in the actual presence of the court. The judgment of guilt of contempt shall include a recital of those facts on which the adjudication of guilt is based. Prior to the adjudication of guilt the judge shall inform the defendant of the accusation against the defendant and inquire as to whether the defendant has any cause to show why he or she should not be adjudged guilty of contempt by the court and sentenced therefor. The defendant shall be given the opportunity to present evidence of excusing or mitigating circumstances. The judgment shall be signed by the judge and entered of record. Sentence shall be pronounced in open court.

         Although a verbatim transcription of the direct contempt proceeding is not necessary to serve these ends, due process requires that there be some record from which it is possible to determine what the contemptuous conduct was, what mitigating or excusing ...


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