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It is Finished!

Posted by Peter on August 05, 2009

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If a large percentage of your practice is prosecuting and defending various sorts of contempt of court matters as mine is, you may have heard of the former husband in a PA divorce case (who also happened to be an attorney) who was subject to the longest sentence in U.S. history stemming from a civil contempt finding. I know that at several of the trainings I’ve attended periodically he was brought up. The thumbnail is some $2.5 million in marital assets disappeared which according to him were lost in poorly performing investments and the former wife likely thinks that they’re still sitting around in some Swiss bank account. Well, since civil contempt is supposed to be coercive and not punishing, a PA judge said that jail has lost its coercive affect after 14 years. He’s out!

And while we’re talking contempt, can anyone help me with this riddle that I’ve struggled with all morning:

Court orders entered and party brings petition for indirect criminal contempt (aimed to punish for past acts). Later on, the orders that are the basis of the criminal contempt case get vacated/terminated, there has yet to be a hearing/trial on the criminal contempt case. Should the contempt case be dismissed or can it still be brought since the orders that were allegedly violated were enforceable at the time the case was brought??


2 Comments to It is Finished!

  • Bryan says:

    Of course I don’t have any case law that I can cite to. However, my understanding is that if the order was violated, that is contemptuous, even if the order is later vacated.

  • Peter says:

    I lean that way too…but represent someone who would benefit from the opposite position. I’m partly asking myself what’s plausible enough to at least bring a motion to dismiss w/o being laughed out of court. Because I think the criminal judge handling this divorce/contempt stuff really wants to get rid of it.

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