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Loud objection to jury service was not contempt

A Norfolk man whose loud protest about a jury summons earned him a contempt conviction has been exonerated by the Court of Appeals of Virginia.

James C. Henderson definitely did NOT want to serve on a jury. Summoned in 2009, he showed up at the Norfolk courthouse, making it clear to all in a loud voice that he did not plan to return for the jury report dates. Circuit Judge Norman Thomas found his boisterous behavior and resistance to jury service to be contemptuous.

Not so, ruled a three-judge appeals court panel Tuesday. Henderson may have been loud, but the court found no evidence he disrupted the administration of justice or resisted lawful process.

“At most, appellant’s conduct constituted loud, disrespectful, and unruly conduct directed at and in the presence of nonjudicial employees charged with the administration of justice. Even as to these employees the evidence did not show that appellant obstructed them in the administration of their offices,” writes Senior Judge Sam Coleman for the panel’s unpublished opinion.

No word on whether reversal and dismissal of the contempt charge has brought any softening of Henderson’s views on the judicial system.

-By Peter Vieth

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