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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 ?
According to report, Holder is the first sitting attorney general of the United States to be held in contempt of Congress.
The ruling came after US Senate and House committees in the Republican-controlled Congress issued subpoenas for Schiavo, her husband and her carers to appear at hearings on March 25 and March 28, which would in effect keep her alive for the time being David Gibbs, the lawyer for her parents, said: 'It is a contempt of Congress to prevent or discourage someone from following the subpoena that's been issued.
He was charged with contempt of Congress and convicted in May 1957.
If he thumbs his nose at us, then we'll consider our options, including contempt of Congress.
Unlike the Commonwealth of Massachusetts court, however, the Iron Workers court concluded that the tobacco companies should have risked being in contempt of Congress in order to preserve their privilege claims.
THE SMALL WATCHDOG GROUP that saved taxpayers millions of dollars by exposing oil industry underpayments is being rewarded with a rare Contempt of Congress resolution by oil state lawmakers.
And the House Commerce Committee, which oversees the Health and Environment Health Subcommittee, voted 34-0 to hold Jones in contempt of Congress for failing to respond to subpoena or to 2 previous letters from Commerce Committee Chairman Tom Bliley Jr (R-VA) asking questions about Jones' fetal tissue work.
Dmytryk was a member of the Hollywood Ten, a group of writers, producers and directors whose refusal to cooperate with the committee led to their being imprisoned for contempt of Congress.
But not before the so-called Hollywood Ten, a group of writers and directors subpoenaed to appear before HUAC, went to prison for their sin--they were cited for contempt of Congress, convicted and sentenced to terms ranging from six months to a year in prison for refusing on First Amendment grounds to answer what was known, after the quiz show of the same name, as The $64,000 Question: "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?
Thus, despite many threats (which often led to negotiated settlements), since the criminal contempt of Congress provisions(18) were enacted in 1857, only once has a full body of Congress voted a criminal contempt citation against the head of an executive department or agency.
WASHINGTON -- Today, the United States House of Representatives did something that had never been done in the entire 150-year history of the contempt of Congress statute: it voted to hold in contempt two top White House officials who had been directed by the President not to comply with House Judiciary Committee subpoenas on the basis of the President's assertion of Executive Privilege.
In that report, the Republican staff of the House Financial Services Committee recommends that the committee consider holding Cordray in contempt of Congress because of his lack of cooperation.