(redirected from contempt of Congress)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal, Wikipedia.


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
..... Click the link for more information.
 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
..... Click the link for more information.
) 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).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.


wilful disregard of or disrespect for the authority of a court of law or legislative body
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Republican committee staff members already have said that Cordray could be held in contempt of Congress over allegations that the agency failed to produce records the panel requested dealing with the CFPB's Wells Fargo probe.
The House of Representatives voted 231 to 187, largely across party lines, on May 7 to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions on the IRS's handling of tea party groups.
In 1955 Seeger appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee where he refused to answer questions he said violated his constitutional rights, and in 1961 he was convicted on ten counts of contempt of Congress. The convictions were later overturned, but suspicion of his communist past would linger for years.
Seeger's music championed causes spanning decades; according to his New York Times obituary, "He sang for the labor movement in the 1940s and 1950s, for civil rights marches and anti-Vietnam War rallies in the 1960s, and for environmental and antiwar causes in the 1970s and beyond." His political ties drew the attention of authorities during the McCarthy erahe was subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1955, and indicted on 10 counts of contempt of Congress in 1957.
in contempt of Congress in a dispute over internal Justice Department documents related to the botched gun trafficking operation known as 'Fast and Furious.'"
"Their comments about pharmacists in other settings may not rise to contempt of Congress, but they certainly meet the standard for contempt of patient care," said Anderson.
Following his refusal to appear on Thursday they ruled that the former advisor was breaking the law by refusing to cooperate - a possible first step toward holding him in contempt of congress.
On July 25, 2007, the House Judiciary Committee voted 22-17 to cite Miers and Bolten for contempt of Congress (Lewis 2007).
Democrats voted yesterday, for the first time in decades, to hold two White House officials in contempt of Congress. Hours later it emerged that Ms.
United States, (13) a different witness at the congressional hearings refused to provide answers, and was prosecuted for contempt of Congress. The witness had noted that a lawsuit had been commenced between the government and the Mammoth Oil Company, and declared, "I shall reserve any evidence I may be able to give for those courts ...
Bruce Braley, D-IA, said the committee should consider whether to hold SBA Administrator Steven Preston in contempt of Congress.
"As you probably know, the House Judiciary Committee has just voted along partisan lines to have a criminal contempt of Congress referral against White House legal counsel and the White House Chief of Staff.