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Posts tagged "contempt"

Illegally Putting the Witness in Jail

Contempt is "an offense at common law, a specific and substantive offense" that is separate and distinct from the matter in litigation out of which the contempt arose. Town of Nottingham v. Cedar Waters, 118 N.H. 282, 285 (1978) (quoting State v. Towle, 42 N.H. 540, 544 (1861)). The character and purpose of the punishment distinguishes the two classes of contempt. Id. In civil contempt, the punishment is remedial, coercive, and for the benefit of the complainant. Id. Civil contempt proceedings may result in money fines payable to the complainant or an indeterminate jail sentence until the contemnor complies with the court order. Id. Upon compliance with the court's order, the contemnor is released. State v. Wallace, 136 N.H. 267, 269 (1992). Thus, "the contemnor is said to carry the keys to the jail in his pocket and stands committed until he performs the affirmative act required by the court." Nottingham, 118 N.H. at 282. (quoting Gompers v. Buck Stove & Range Co., 221 U.S. 418 (1911)). In contrast, the purpose for punishing for criminal contempt is to vindicate the dignity of the court. Id. The sentence is punitive and determinate, and no amount of repentance will remit it. Id. (citing Stern v. Chandler, 134 A.2d 550 (Me. 1957)).

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