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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Civil Contempt and Judicial Abuse of Discretion

What is Civil Contempt of court and why is its abuse a dangerous precedent in the American legal system?

Civil contempt "generally involves the failure to perform an act that is ordered by a court as a means to enforce the rights of individuals or to secure remedies for parties in a civil action." For instance, parents who don't pay court-ordered Child Support may be held in contempt of court under civil contempt or journalists who refuse to divulge their sources. The problem with civil contempt is that people are imprisoned indefinitely and they are forced to prove a negative. If a parent who is ordered to pay support based on false premises fails to pay, the judge can choose to ignore evidence and send them to jail indefinitely. None of the protections of the constitution are afforded them, and judges are allowed great discretion - including up to 14 years imprisonment - with no due process, no guarantee of legal representation and no jury trial. Many judges abuse this power of discretion. Fortunately, in Illinois, our judges are no longer merely accountable to the next higher court. In this state, judges must now hold onto their offices through an election. Judges are now directly accountable to voters.

To protect themselves, their children and their future, voters need to wake up and research the candidates they vote for. Voting for judges may seem like a confusing matter, but with the Internet making so much more information available, candidates are being forced to present themselves and their past actions to public scrutiny. This can only be a good thing. Corruption and abuse of power don't thrive in an environment of truth and revelation.

For more information about this topic, go to Legal Affairs Articles


  1. Do you know any links with info about the judges? That's been a frustration at voting time.

  2. http://www.suntimes.com/news/politics/1778703,CST-NWS-judges20web.article Interestingly this article mentions a judge candidate Pamela Hill Veal who was chastised by the appellate court for abusing her judicial contempt power. Because you live in Cook county, which is huge, in order to be more specific, you need to know your voting district. Then you can Google each of the candidates in your declared party to find out more about them. I'll see if I discover any red flags on judicial candidates in Northern Illinois as well.

  3. Another web site with information is: