Feeling Contempt Toward Contempt

Being held “in contempt of court” is one of those tropes Hollywood loves to use, but in reality, it can occur for much less than throwing a tantrum during trial. If a party does not obey or breaches a court mandated order, he may be held in contempt. Here are the standards that apply: 

The moving party has the burden of proof. Schaefer v. BE4, LLC, 42 Misc. 3d 1219(A) (Dis. Ct., Suff. Co, 2014). Moreover, a hearing must be held to determine any controverted issues of fact. Id. The Plaintiff has the burden of proving contempt by clear and convincing evidence. Suiss v. Baron, 107 A.D. 3d 690, 691 (2d Dept. 2013). The Plaintiff must show that  “willfully violated a clear and unequivocal mandate of a court’s order with knowledge of that order’s terms, thereby prejudicing movant’s rights. McGrath v. McGrath, 85 A.D.3d 742 (2d Dept. 2011).

“In order to find that civil contempt has occurred in a given case, it must be determined that a lawful order of the court, clearly expressing an unequivocal mandate, was in effect and it must appear, with reasonable certainty, that the order has been disobeyed.” Commissioners of State Ins. Fund v. Kernell, 91 A.D.3d 811, 812 (2d Dept. 2012) (emphasis added); Hynes v. Hartman, 63 A.D.2d 1, 4 (1st Dept. 1998). The affirmation of an attorney is of no probative evidentiary value.

Even if punished, Courts allow reasonable opportunity to cure the problem and purge contempt before issuing any possible punitive measures. See, e.g., Laundra Vend Machines, Inc. v. J.R.D. Mgmt. Corp., 43 N.Y.2d 890, 892 (1978).


If you have any legal questions or need help with contempt of court, please contact Attorney Scott Lanin at (212) 764-7250 x 201 or use the contact form in the right sidebar.

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