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in law, interference with the functioning of a legislature or court. In its narrow and more usual sense, contempt refers to the despising of the authority, justice, or dignity of a court. A contempt of court can be classified as civil or criminal, direct or constructive. Civil and criminal contempts are distinguished by the function of the punishment—if it is to vindicate judicial authority, the contempt is criminal; if it is to enforce the rights and remedies of a party, the contempt is civil. A direct contempt is one committed in the presence of the court while it is in session. A constructive contempt is one that is committed at a distance from the court and that tends to obstruct or defeat the administration of justice. A refusal to answer a question when directed to answer by a judge is a direct criminal contempt. Disobeying an injunctioninjunction,
in law, order of a court directing a party to perform a certain act or to refrain from an act or acts. The injunction, which developed as the main remedy in equity, is used especially where money damages would not satisfy a plaintiff's claim, or to protect personal
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 or a court order that a judgment (e.g., alimonyalimony,
in law, allowance for support that an individual pays to his or her former spouse, usually as part of a divorce settlement. It is based on the common law right of a wife to be supported by her husband, but in the United States, the Supreme Court in 1979 removed its
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) be satisfied is a civil contempt. A major distinction is whether the court needs to hear evidence to determine if a contempt was committed. Direct criminal contempts may be punished summarily by fine or imprisonment; civil and constructive criminal contempts can also be punished by fine or imprisonment, but the accused must be granted a hearing. In the United States, Congress can punish for contempt of Congress behavior that occurs during legislative proceedings and that threatens its legislative power. Congress must act before it adjourns, and any imprisonment can last no longer than that session. State legislatures also have limited powers to punish for contempt.


See C. J. Miller, Contempt of Court (1989).


wilful disregard of or disrespect for the authority of a court of law or legislative body
References in periodicals archive ?
The contempt of Congress statute provides that, after a congressional body votes a citation, it is sent to the appropriate U.
In fact, Attorney General Mukasey himself reaffirmed this view just last week in his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, referencing a 1995 Opinion authored by Walter Dellinger, a senior Justice Department official in the Clinton Administration, which stated that "the criminal contempt of Congress statute does not apply to the President or presidential subordinates who assert Executive Privilege.
House of Representatives to hold former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress sends an important message in the ongoing process to hold those responsible for the unlawful targeting of conservative and tea party groups accountable.
He was found in contempt of Congress and sentenced to a year in prison, but an appeals court eventually dismissed the indictment as flawed.
After having already been held in criminal contempt of Congress for an ongoing coverup of the Obama administration's deadly "Fast and Furious" gun-running program, Attorney General Eric Holder is facing a fresh challenge: an effort by some GOP lawmakers to impeach him before the end of the year.
House of Representatives in holding the current Administration's Attorney General in contempt of Congress for his refusal to cooperate with their investigation into that debacle.
The House of Representatives made history Thursday by voting to cite Attorney General Eric Holder for contempt, the first time a sitting Cabinet officer has been held in contempt of Congress.
in contempt of Congress in a dispute over internal Justice Department documents related to the botched gun trafficking operation known as 'Fast and Furious.
On July 25, 2007, the House Judiciary Committee voted 22-17 to cite Miers and Bolten for contempt of Congress (Lewis 2007).
When he refused he was jailed for contempt of Congress for three months and subsequently blacklisted.
Also on this day: 1838: Solders end uprising by Kentish peasants at Bosendon Wood in last battle fought on English soil; 1859: Big Ben started telling the time; 1868: First recorded bicycle race over two kilometre course at Parc de St Cloud won by Briton James Moore; 1891: Construction began on the Trans-Siberian Railway; 1911: The White Star liner Titanic launched at Belfast; 1916: Naval Battle of Jutland started; 1956: England cricketer Leonard Hutton knighted; 1957: American playwright Arthur Miller convicted for contempt of Congress for refusing to name celebrity Communist supporters.
1968: Radical Abbie Hoffman is cited in contempt of Congress for his ``walking the dog'' yo-yo trick before the House Subcommittee on Un-American Activities.