A court may, at its discretion, incarcerate a litigant for conduct in the presence of or outside of the court. Notably, Article Nineteen, Section 750 of the Judiciary Law outlines the power of the court to punish for criminal contempt when a person is guilty of the following acts:
1. Disorderly, contemptuous, or insolent behavior during a court appearance2. Breach of the peace, noise or disturbance that interrupts the proceedings
3. Wilful disobedience to its lawful mandate
4. Contumacious and unlawful refusal to be sworn as a witness or, after being sworn in, failure to answer any legal or proper interrogatory
5. Publication of false or grossly inaccurate reports of its proceedings
6. Wilful failure to obey a court order
(Judiciary Law, Chapter 30, Section 750)
As an example, if a litigant decides to get up during a court appearance and start yelling at another attorney, that litigant will be apprehended by the court officers and sent down to the court’s holding cells. The judge may then issue an order of contempt after holding a quick hearing and issue a sentence of up to 30 days.
I strongly advise all litigants to act appropriately and respectfully when appearing before a Judge. Your failure to do so can lead to a 30-day trip to the pokey.