ROBERTSON v. UNITED STATES EX REL. WATSON

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
08-6261
Petitioner 
John Robertson
Respondent 
United States, ex rel. Wykenna Watson
Advocates
(for the petitioner)
(for the respondent)
(Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the United States as amicus curiae, supporting the respondent)
Term:
Facts of the Case 

A victim who obtained a civil protection order ("CPO") against John Robertson moved to hold him in criminal contempt for violating the order. A District of Columbia Superior Court convicted Mr. Robertson on three counts of criminal contempt for violating the CPO. Mr. Robertson moved to vacate the convictions, which was denied. On appeal, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals affirmed Mr. Robertson's conviction.

Question 

Is an action for criminal contempt in a congressionally created court brought in the name and pursuant to the power of a private person, rather than in the name and pursuant to the power of the United States, constitutional?

Conclusion 

Split Vote

The Supreme Court dismissed the writ of certiorari as improvidently granted.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, joined by Justices Antonin G. Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, and Sonia Sotamayor, dissented. He recognized the complexity of the issue raised before the Court. However, he argued the answer to it is "no." He explained that "[t]he terrifying force of the criminal justice system may only be brought to bear against an individual by society as a whole, through a prosecution brought on behalf of the government" – not an individual.

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ROBERTSON v. UNITED STATES EX REL. WATSON. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 23 November 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2009/2009_08_6261>.
ROBERTSON v. UNITED STATES EX REL. WATSON, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2009/2009_08_6261 (last visited November 23, 2014).
"ROBERTSON v. UNITED STATES EX REL. WATSON," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed November 23, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2009/2009_08_6261.