CONTEMPT OF COURT
Black’s Law Dictionary defines “contempt of court” as: any act which is calculated to embarrass, hinder, or obstruct the court in administration of justice, or which is calculated to lessen its authority or its dignity. Committed by a person who does any act in wilful contravention of its authority or dignity, or tending to impede or frustrate the administration of justice, or by one whom, being under the court’s authority as a party to a proceeding therein, wilfully disobeys its lawful orders or fails to comply with an undertaking which he has given.
CJ McKean of the United States in the Book “History of the Contempt of Court” (1927) p47 noted: “Since however, the question seems to resolve itself into this, whether you shall bend to the law or the law shall bend to you. It is our duty to determine that the former shall be the case.”
Contempt of court generally refers to conduct that defies disrespects or insults the authority or dignity of a court. Often, contempt takes the form of actions that are seen as detrimental to the court’s ability to administer justice. Judges typically have much discretion in deciding whom to hold in contempt and the type of contempt. Those held in contempt can include parties to a proceeding, attorneys, witnesses, jur1ors, and people in or around a proceeding, and officers or staff of the court itself.
Such powers are designed to vindicate the authority of the court and the rights of the parties.
TYPES OF CONTEMPT
1. CRIMINAL CONTEMPT
Criminal contempt proceedings are prosecuted to preserve the power and vindicate the dignity of the court. Such proceedings are punitive in nature. Oftentimes, however, the same act or failure to act by a party can justify either civil or criminal contempt proceedings.
Criminal contempt charges serve to deter future acts of contempt by punishing the offender no matter what happens in the underlying proceeding.
Judges use different factors when deciding whether to hold...