Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Scandalizing the Court Definition:

Personal scurrilous abuse of a judge as a judge.

Related Terms: Contempt of Court, Obstructing Justice

Also spelled scandalising the court.

A species of contempt of court. In St. James's Evening Post Case (1742):

"One kind of contempt is scandalizing the court itself."

In R v Grey, Justice Russell wrote:

"Any act done or writing published calculated to bring a Court or a judge of the Court into contempt, or to lower his authority, is a contempt of Court. That is one class of contempt.

"Further, any act done or writing published calculated to obstruct or interfere with the due course of justice or the lawful process of the Courts is a contempt of Court. The former class (is) ... characterised as scandalising a Court or a judge.

"That description of that class of contempt is to be taken subject to one and an important qualification. Judges and Courts are alike open to criticism, and if reasonable argument or expostulation is offered against any judicial act as contrary to law or the public good, no Court could or would treat that as contempt of Court. The law ought not to be astute in such cases to criticise adversely what under such circumstances and with such an object is published; but it is to be remembered that in this matter the liberty of the press is no greater and no less than the liberty of every subject of the Queen. Now, as I have said, no one has suggested that this is not a contempt of Court, and nobody has suggested, or could suggest, that it falls within the right of public criticism in the sense I have described. It is not criticism, I repeat that it is personal scurrilous abuse of a judge as a judge."

In 1957, in a case called Re Duncan, Canada's Supreme Court condoned R v Grey, referring to the offence of scandalizing the court in these terms:

"... any act done calculated to bring a Court into contempt or to lower its authority is a contempt of Court and belongs to that category (of) scandalising a Court or a judge...

"It is a contempt of any court of justice to disturb and obstruct the court by insulting it in its presence and at a time when it is actually sitting. It is not from any exaggerated notion of the dignity of individuals that insults to judges are not allowed, but because there is imposed upon the court the duty of preventing brevi manu any attempt to interfere with the administration of justice."


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