Circuit Judge Daniel Rozak obviously does not like yawning in the courtroom. He sentenced Clifton Williams to six months in jail after he let out a loud yawn when his cousin was being sentenced on a felony drug charge. The cousin actually received probation.
The incident occurred in the Will County Courthouse in Joliet.
The judge (and the prosecutor) believed that the yawn was an intentional effort to disrupt the proceedings. However, the Tribune has found that Rozak routinely jails people for everything from cellphone calls to speaking loudly. Indeed, of the 30 judges in the 12th Judicial Circuit, he is responsible for one-third of the contempt charges.
I am very sympathetic to the judge’s effort to respond to disruptions and this may have been a rather transparent effort to interrupt the proceedings or mock the court. However, six months is a ridiculous sentence and Rozak is clearly too-quick-on-the-trigger with contempt sanctions.
I am also curious how Rozak can eliminate the possibility of an involuntary yawn as a matter of intent. There is a big difference between shouting in a courtroom — which is clearly voluntary — and a yawn that (while suspicious) could be innocent.
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