may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1994).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Stacie Ann Hejhal,
Filed December 10, 1996
Dakota County District Court
File No. KX9659
Daniel J. Beeson, Inver Grove Heights City Attorney, Thomas R. Lehmann, Korine L. Larsen, Assistant City Attorneys, 633 South Concord, Suite 400, South St. Paul, MN 55075 (for respondent)
Rick Mattox, Chief Public Defender, Juan Hoyos, Assistant Public Defender, 7300 West 147th Street, Suite 400, Apple Valley, MN 55124 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Short, Presiding Judge, Huspeni, Judge, and Foley, Judge.*
Stacie Ann Hejhal's choice of the tee shirt she wore to her sentencing hearing on a misdemeanor matter resulted in the issuance of a criminal contempt order and imposition of a two-day sentence. On appeal from that order, Hejhal argues the trial court abused its discretion in finding her in contempt because her manner of attire did not interrupt court proceedings. We reverse.
D E C I S I O N
Conduct directed against the dignity and authority of the court is punishable by fine, imprisonment, or both. See Minn. Stat. § 588.02 (1994) (authorizing fine and imprisonment as sanctions for contempt of court); Minnesota State Bar Ass'n v. Divorce Assistance Ass'n, 311 Minn. 276, 285, 248 N.W.2d 733, 741 (1976) (defining criminal contempt); see also State v. Tatum, ___ N.W.2d ___, ___ (Minn. Nov. 21, 1996) (recognizing criminal contempt sanctions are imposed for punitive, rather than remedial, purposes). Disorderly, contemptuous, or insolent behavior that tends to interrupt judicial proceedings constitutes direct contempt. Minn. Stat. § 588.01, subd. 2(1) (1994); see State v. Garcia, 481 N.W.2d 133, 137 (Minn. App. 1992) (noting direct contempt exists where contumacious conduct occurs in judge's immediate presence). When reviewing a contempt order, we may reverse or modify only if we find the trial court abused its discretion in issuing the order. See Time-Share Systems v. Schmidt, 397 N.W.2d 438, 441 (Minn. App. 1986) (citing Erickson v. Erickson, 385 N.W.2d 301, 304 (Minn. 1986)).
The facts in this case are undisputed. Hejhal attended district court to plead guilty to the misdemeanor charge of giving false driver's license information to a police officer in violation of Minn. Stat. § 171.22, subd. 1(8) (1994). Before approaching the bench, Hejhal's attorney requested Hejhal remove her jacket as a matter of court decorum. The trial judge completed sentencing before noticing that Hejhal's tee shirt bore an illustration of a boy (Calvin) with his pants lowered, urinating on a clothing designer's logo.
The state correctly suggests we must defer to the trial court's judgment of Hejhal's appearance. See In re Contempt of Cary, 165 Minn. 203, 207, 206 N.W. 402, 403-04 (1925) (requiring that reviewing court accept trial court's finding of insolent and contemptuous manner unless the contrary is shown). However, after a careful review of the record, we conclude Hejhal's appearance did not tend to interrupt the due course of the judicial proceedings. Cf. In re Welfare of R.L.W., 309 Minn. 489, 490-91, 245 N.W.2d 204, 205 (1976) (discussing direct contempt conviction for yelling obscenities at referee during hearing); Cary, 165 Minn. at 207, 206 N.W. at 403-04 (affirming contempt conviction where counsel spoke to court with contemptuous manner and refused to cease improper cross-examination); State v. Whitcomb, 399 N.W.2d 124, 126 (Minn. App. 1987) (affirming conviction of contemnor who conducted improper voir dire and remained argumentative after court's warning to desist), review denied (Minn. Feb. 13, 1987), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 840 (1987). Because Hejhal's attire, though inappropriate, did not interrupt the court proceedings, the trial court abused its discretion in finding Hejhal in direct contempt under Minn. Stat. § 588.01, subd. 2(1).