Blog 5: Overlooked remedy. When someone is injured by a contempt, a civil suit for money damages (could be coming).
by Andrew R. Korn, Esq.
April 7th, 2020
The Wrong. Violating a court order is a contempt, for which the violator can be fined and imprisoned. In re Daugherty, 2018 Tex. App. LEXIS 4447, at *12 (Tex. App.—Dallas June 19, 2018, orig. proceeding) (“A judge can impose a fine or imprisonment or both in a criminal contempt order.”); Ex parte Hayes, 2017 Tex. App. LEXIS 6276, at *6-7 (Tex. App.—Dallas July 7, 2017, orig. proceeding) (“A court may impose a fine, imprisonment, or both in a civil contempt order so long as the imprisonment is conditional. A civil contempt order can impose a determinate sentence as long as the order contains a ‘purge clause.’”).
These judicial actions serve to maintain the dignity and authority of the Court. See Ex parte Kilgore, 3 Tex. Ct. App. 247, 256 (1877) (Trial court’s contempt proceedings was a “commendable endeavor to uphold and maintain the dignity and authority of the court over which he presided.”)
Fining and jailing the person who violated a court order does not compensate any party harmed by the contemnor’s disobedience. See Howard v. Durand, 36 Ga. 346, 359 (1867)
the defendant was enjoined from using or selling the property in litigation. This injunction, the plaintiff alleges, has been violated by defendant. Suppose the Court had “committed defendant for said contempt,” would this afford any remedy to Howard? Would it restore the property sold? Do not the facts show that the only effect of the punishment, would be to vindicate the authority of the Court, and not furnish any remedy for the plaintiff?