An Indiana state court judge held three spectators in contempt (and restrained them for “more than an hour”) after they allegedly refused to admit whose cellphone was ringing. Two spectators later admitted their malfeasance: one was fined $100, the other forced to serve 40 hours of community service. And a third spectator is to serve 40 hours for not telling the judge that he knew whose phone was ringing!
I hope there is more to the story than this. Because if there isn’t, this seems like a fairly tough, verging on punitive, remedy, especially for the spectator whose only contempt was not disclosing that he knew that another spectator’s phone had rung. Punitive contempt proceedings require more than summary justice.
This should also serve as a reminder to incoming first-year students. Turn your phones off. Professors, who may conceive of the classroom as a mini-courtroom, will certainly become annoyed if a phone rings during class. For what it is worth, my remedy is to call on the owner of a ringing phone, and continue to dialogue with them for the duration of class. My contracts class this fall lasts two hours. I imagine it won’t happen twice.