Rethinking Civil Contempt Incarceration


Under current federal law civil contempt is governed by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, yet it often results in incarceration. This incarceration can, and in a few cases has been, indefinite. The unlimited duration of civil contempt represents the pinnacle of judicial power, and yet it is a topic which has generated surprisingly little scholarship or case law. This Article explores the history and development of modern contempt law, and finds that while the federal law treats all civil contemnors equally, historically and in many states, contemnors are classified by the type of civil contempt committed. This Article proposes adopting a contempt-sensitive approach at the federal level.


Civil Law | Civil Rights and Discrimination | Constitutional Law | Criminal Law | Criminal Procedure | Family Law | Law and Society

Date of this Version

August 2006